The Ohio State basketball team lost Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross to either graduation or the NBA this offseason, but Thad Matta has nearly 14’ of reinforcements on the way.
While much of the excitement surrounding the program has understandably come from the No. 6-ranked recruiting class in the country, per 247Sports, Matta addressed a serious area of need through the transfer market. Big men Anthony Lee and Trevor Thompson both recently elected to take their talents to Columbus.
Lee comes via Temple, where he averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds a game in 2013-14. He was a double-double threat every time he stepped on the floor and gave the Owls a formidable rim protector on the defensive side of the ball.
Lee is such an important addition for the Buckeyes because Amir Williams has failed to live up to his McDonald’s All-American potential in his three years on campus.
While Williams has flashed moments of brilliance, Ohio State needs a consistent big man in the physically grueling Big Ten. It was actually the departing Ross who led the team in rebounds per game last year, and the graduating Smith was a close third. The team as a whole was 216th in the country in total rebounds a night with Ross and Smith, so Lee’s prowess on the boards will be absolutely critical.
Lee also fits in nicely with the group of incoming 2014 recruits.
D’Angelo Russell, Jae’Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop are the expected impact players, but Russell is a guard and the other two are small forwards. Lee will open up the floor for the three shooters and slashers by drawing defenders down low, and his presence will also allow the perimeter defenders (including Shannon Scott) opportunities to gamble for steals because he can slide in as a help defender on the block.
Lee will help the Buckeyes in 2014-15, but Thompson is a long-term answer down low for Matta.
Much like Lee, he will complement Russell and company for years to come with his 7’ frame on both ends of the floor.
Thompson’s story is more about potential than production thus far. He only averaged five points and 4.7 rebounds a game as a freshman at Virginia Tech, but he showed what he is capable of with a stat line at Duke of 15 points, six rebounds, three steals and a block. He has three years of eligibility remaining, so we should see plenty of improvement during his time in Columbus.
Thompson certainly seemed thrilled to be joining Ohio State in comments that come via Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com:
I felt like my initial plan wasn't to commit after the first visit because I wanted to see everything and give everyone a fair a chance, but when I got there, it was just amazing. I really can’t put it into words, but it was just everything Ohio State had to offer – the academic plans, the school, the coaching staff. ... And the main reason, which is having a chance to win a national championship.
As of now, Thompson is not eligible to play in 2014-15, but he does plan on filing a family hardship waiver with the NCAA because he wanted to be closer to home and his father, who is scheduled to undergo neck surgery.
Regardless of whether Thompson can play next year or not, he will be an important piece of the program going forward. Big men Williams, Lee and Trey McDonald each only have one season of eligibility remaining, so it will just be Thompson and 2014 recruit David Bell (who could redshirt this year) down low after that.
What’s more, Jordan Wagner of Eleven Warriors points out that Matta still has an available scholarship even with the additions of Thompson and Lee:
That means Buckeye Nation can still hold onto those slim hopes that super-recruit Myles Turner will eventually decide to join the recent influx of big men at Ohio State.
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