Ohio State Senior leader, David Lighty, arrived on campus back in the summer of 2006. Lighty averaged 26 points per game for St. Joseph’s High School in Cleveland, Ohio. He ranked No. 36 Nationally according to Rivals, but he stood in the shadows of more heralded incomers like DeQuan Cook(No. 13), and Greg Oden(No. 1). Even the 6’1″ Mike Conley Jr. (No. 18) stood over Lighty in terms of expectations and notoriety.
The freshman captured the eye of Buckeye fans despite scoring just 3.7 points per game, playing only 16 minutes per game, and shooting a mere 20 percent from behind the arc; however, Lighty had an edge.
Matta and the fans knew exactly what they were getting when Lighty entered the game—rebounding, defense, and undeniable effort. What the fans did not know, and what Matta probably did, is that they were watching a future definition of leadership, and everything that is not modern-day college basketball.
Lighty’s journey had just begun, and oh what a journey it would be.
One-and-done. It was a phrase unfamiliar to fans only a decade ago. One-and-done has transformed the game of college basketball. Mid-major programs have become more competitive, and power conferences like the ACC and Big Ten are struggling to find players that are good, but not too good. High profile recruits are treated more like short-term car leases in the college basketball world—cars you can’t afford, cars you have to give back.
Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., and DeQuan Cook departed for the NBA after losing the 2007 National title game. Over the next two seasons Ohio State lost more freshmen to the NBA draft, and the fans began to wonder if another Championship run was even a possibility. After all, they had come up short with arguably the best recruiting class in the school's history. The "Thad-Five" and "Fab-Five" had something in common—they didn’t win it all. Could Matta balance the new one-and-done trend with the development of players from years past? Only one thing would remain consistent, fan-favorite David Lighty.
One could argue that David Lighty was not one-and-done material. Thank God for that.
After the mass-exodus of 2007, Lighty led a rag-tag group of Buckeyes in his sophomore campaign. Ohio State finished the 2007-2008 regular season at 19-13, but was left out of the NCAA Tournament. Lighty and Ohio State rolled off five straight to win the NIT Championship, and Matta once again noticed the advantages of recruiting these in-state sleepers. You might have heard of some: Jamar Butler, Aaron Craft, Jon Diebler. Throw in a couple of Ohio grown McDonald’s All-Americans and you have a winning combination.
Ohio State flew out of the gates at 7-0 to start the 2008-09 season. They won at No. 22 Miami, then beat No. 7 Notre Dame and Butler in three consecutive games. Lighty’s Junior campaign was off to a great start until the unthinkable happened. Lighty had 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals against Jacksonville State when he hobbled off the court late in the game. Post-game reports did not talk much about the injury because no one knew how serious it was. Reports surfaced the next day that Lighty had broken his left foot. Ohio State dropped five of their next 11 games.They slid down the other side of the bubble and just made the tournament. Ohio State was upset 75-73 in a first round double-overtime thriller against Sienna. Lighty could only watch from the sidelines and dream of better days ahead.
The team improved to 29-8 in ’09-’10, but was ousted by Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen.
For the first time in years, Ohio State would enter the season as one of the most experienced teams in the country with four returning starters for the fall of 2010. Dallas Lauderdale, William Buford, Jon Diebler and David Lighty sparked an Ohio State basketball fever. Thad Matta was busy rounding up the finishing pieces of his recruiting class when lightning struck again.
In the spring of 2010 Lighty broke his left foot, again. There was a collective sigh amongst the Ohio State faithful, and the promising season that fans were expecting was back in question. Could Lighty return to form before the start of the season? And, if he could, how good was this team going to be? Later, we found the answers, “yes, he would” and “very, very good.”
It didn’t take long to see that Lighty was near 100 percent. He was elevating for thunderous dunks, and navigating the defensive-end of the court like an F-18 Hornet, representative of something even more powerful and intimidating. The Captain had returned with an even bigger chip on his shoulder, and a battalion of four and five star generals by his side.
The Buckeyes and David Lighty were 33-2 when they entered their second round game (I’m a non-conformist) against George Mason. There was little doubt who would step up when Mason started the game on an 11-2 run. All the Buckeye fans and Coach Matta did was turn to their fifth year Senior.
There was zero doubt in my mind that his first three was going in when it was released. Zero doubt! Now, I would not have bet my house that he was going to hit the next six, but that’s beside the point. It won’t be the last time in this tournament that Ohio State is tested, and it won’t be the last time that Ohio State depends on their Captain to get them out of trouble.
If the Nation's MVP is the most valuable player on the best team—then that player is David Lighty. He has more wins than any player in Big Ten history. He may be the toughest and most resilient player I have ever seen on a basketball court. He’s no one-and-done. He’s no primadonna. He is David Lighty.