Ohio State Basketball: Biggest Ups and Downs from 2013 Offseason So Far
Every major college basketball team’s offseason is filled with ups and downs, and Ohio State’s is no different. Thad Matta and company have had a better offseason than many, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a hiccup here and there.
Read on to see the ups and downs for the Buckeyes’ offseason, most of which deals with recruiting. After all, that’s what the primary concern for the coaching staff often is when there aren’t any games to be played.
Any recruiting rankings and information is courtesy of Scout.com.
Up: The Commitment of D'Angelo Russell
photo courtesy of landgrantholyland.com
If it seems like forever ago that Thad Matta landed pledges from Jae'sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop, and that is because it has been forever by recruiting standards.
Both potential superstars in the making committed to Ohio State in November of 2012 and haven’t wavered from their intentions since. However, the verbal commitment of another 5-star prospect made this class one of the nation's elite early in the process this offseason.
D’Angelo Russell is a legitimate playmaker who can fill the point guard and shooting guard roles thanks to a solid shooting stroke and tremendous ball-handling ability. The fact that he is versatile enough to play the point is critical because Aaron Craft will have graduated and Shannon Scott will be a senior when Russell arrives.
Thus far the commitment of Russell has been the highlight of the offseason for the Ohio State basketball program.
Down: Falling out of the Race for Jahlil Okafor
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For a while it seemed as if Thad Matta was a serious contender for the nation's No. 1 prospect in Jahlil Okafor. Ohio State was also pursuing Okafor's future teammate in point guard Tyus Jones (assuming they stick to their word and play together).
Jared Sullinger was even training Okafor and one would assume chirping some pro-Buckeye propaganda in his ear during the process. Matta had a chance to land a Greg Oden and Mike Conley 2.0 combination package, and considering the commitments he already has in tow for 2014, it would make the Buckeyes instant national title contenders.
However, with every Okafor update it seems as if the Scarlet and Gray fall further and further out of this race. Duke is considered the favorite at this point, and the Buckeyes may not even have two remaining scholarships to give Okafor and Jones if LaQuinton Ross stays for his senior year.
Up: No Significant Injuries or Controversy of Note
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At this point in the offseason no news is good news.
Actual games are right around the corner, and this summer has been filled with juicy gossip and scandalous stories in collegiate athletics. For an Ohio State fanbase that is still working its way back from the overblown tattoo coverage that in hindsight simply looks ridiculous compared to what we have seen recently, no scandal news is great.
Throw on top of that the fact that there have been no significant injuries of note in the Buckeye basketball world, and it's been a solid summer for Thad Matta’s bunch.
With the season quickly approaching, Buckeye fans would prefer any headlines for the time being to be about the success of Urban Meyer and the football team.
Down: Jared Sullinger Mess
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Yes, Jared Sullinger is no longer part of the current Ohio State basketball program, but he will always be considered a Buckeye by many in Columbus. The hometown kid dominated the local high-school scene and even stayed at Ohio State a year longer than expected, leading the Buckeyes to the Final Four in the process.
Honestly, he seemed like the last person that would get in trouble off the court, but that is exactly what happened this offseason. Sullinger, now with the Boston Celtics, was released on bail for assault and battery charges in a domestic situation involving his girlfriend. He issued the following statement:
I know that this situation has brought both sorrow and embarrassment to my girlfriend, my family, the Boston Celtics organization, my teammates and my fans. To all of you, I apologize from the bottom of my heart.
With a strong family background and a high school coach as a father, Sullinger will likely bounce back from this eventually, but that doesn't make it any less concerning and disappointing.
Up: Scheduling Myles Turner for an Official Visit
photo courtesy of cbssports.com
While the news hasn't been great for the Buckeyes on the Jahlil Okafor recruiting front, Thad Matta seems to still be in the discussion with the nation's No. 2 big man Myles Turner.
Ohio State is one big man away from landing one of the best classes in the country for the 2014 recruiting cycle, and getting Turner would be monumental for the program going forward. With Amir Williams still a question mark and no proven depth behind him, the Buckeyes need another center.
Turner is scheduled to visit Ohio State on Oct. 19. Matta is competing with presumed favorite Kansas and Kentucky, but if Turner ends up in Columbus that day it will be homecoming weekend with a home football game against Iowa.
While the Jayhawks and Wildcats have historically great basketball programs, they can’t compete with the Buckeyes in terms of the atmosphere surrounding a football game. Perhaps that makes a major impression on the young Turner, and he is the final piece of an elite class.
Follow and interact with Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.