In a gesture that probably says more about the state of college recruiting today than this individual case, Trey Lyles committed to Indiana before he ever laced up his sneakers for one high school basketball game.
That was in 2010.
It is now 2012, and with the upcoming basketball season right around the corner, the young Lyles has reportedly reopened his recruitment and is potentially looking into other schools.
Just for some background, Lyles is a power forward in the class of 2014 from Indianapolis, Indiana. He is rated as a 5-star prospect by almost every major recruiting outlet, including Rivals. In fact, Lyles has drawn comparisons to a young Tim Duncan, which is about the best praise a power forward can hope to receive.
However, by committing to play for Tom Crean and the Hoosiers at such an early stage, Lyles took the wind out of the sails of other coaches who hoped to land the services of this top-notch recruit (which, depending on your view of college recruiting today, may not be such a bad thing).
Well, good news, coaches—it’s open season again on Trey Lyles.
Ohio State, Illinois and Purdue were among the programs that offered Lyles before he committed to Indiana. Considering the talent that Lyles brings to the table, it’s safe to say that these programs will at least be sniffing around again, even if it is just with curiosity.
The Buckeyes offer an interesting possibility for a number of reasons. For one, Ohio State (along with Michigan State) has been the flagship program recently in the deep and competitive Big Ten.
Additionally, it’s not much of a secret that Tom Crean isn’t much of a fan of Thad Matta’s, even if the two coaches won’t admit as much publicly. Needless to say, if Lyles were to ultimately land in Columbus, it probably wouldn’t improve the chances of the two coaches exchanging Christmas cards.
So what are the odds that Ohio State and Thad Mata will secure the commitment of Trey Lyles, now that the forward is back on the open market?
There are actually a few factors working in the Buckeyes' favor.
One thing to remember is Matta is no stranger to walking into the Hoosier state and plucking top-notch recruits right out from under Indiana’s (and Purdue’s) nose. Among the Indiana natives that have donned the scarlet and gray recently are such collegiate stars as Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Deshaun Thomas.
This Indiana connection that Ohio State has established has to at least cross the minds of recruits now and again. If some of the best high school talent to come out of Indiana in the past 10 years has committed to a conference rival in the state just east of you, it’s hard not to notice.
Another factor that may be an advantage for the Buckeyes is the reaction of some (probably a very small some) Indiana fans after Lyles rescinded on his original commitment.
Unfortunately, for as many advantages as social media sites offer, there can also be a dark side. There have allegedly been nasty messages directed toward Lyles from some of the Hoosiers faithful, many of which were transmitted through Twitter.
Every fanbase (including yours, whoever that may be) has these overly zealous members that paint the vast majority of the respectable and reasonable fans in a bad light, so let’s not rush to judgment on the Hoosiers supporters. Nevertheless, while these messages likely won’t cripple Indiana’s chances, it can’t help them either.
A more substantive reason that could help Ohio State land Lyles is the school’s recent track record of sending big guys to the NBA. In just the past six seasons alone, Matta has seen Oden, Kosta Koufos, Byron Mullens and Jared Sullinger all taken in the first round of the NBA draft.
Yes, there hasn’t been as much success at the professional level as these players hoped for (of course, the verdict is still out on the rookie Sullinger), but that doesn’t change the fact that Ohio State played an integral role in sending legitimate forward/center prospects to the height of the basketball profession.
Lyles is on record saying that he is looking for a program that can help him reach the NBA, and one of those is right in Columbus.
However, unfortunately for the Buckeyes, the other programs that are expressing interest also have a history of sending players to the NBA.
Perhaps you may have heard of two other up-and-coming programs that Rivals lists as interested parties in Trey Lyles’ future ability. North Carolina and Kentucky, two of the most storied programs in college basketball history, are also on Lyles’ short list. You can bet that tradition will mean something when Lyles starts to take official visits.
Additionally, Lyles' high school coach claims that Lyles loves Indiana and still has plans of playing basketball in Assembly Hall, despite recanting on his original commitment. Basically, the purpose of his decision to reopen his recruitment is to experience the feeling of being recruited and to have something with which to compare to Indiana.
After all, the Hoosiers represent the only program that Lyles has ever seriously considered, so it seems only fair that he has the chance to see what else is out there. At the end of the day, he is an Indiana native who felt that he was too young when he made a life-altering decision and wants to make sure it is the right choice.
Hard to blame him.
So what does it all mean for Ohio State?
While there is certainly a realistic possibility that Matta can work some recruiting magic and land the sought-after prospect, I think it is an uphill battle. Kentucky, North Carolina and Lyles’ desire to remain a Hoosier are probably a few too many hurdles for the Buckeyes to clear.
But Matta has gradually shifted the football-crazy culture at Ohio State with his recruiting prowess and ability to win on the floor. Had this been Buckeye hoops before Matta arrived, there would be absolutely no chance.
But the Scarlet and Gray now belong in the same recruiting discussions as the Kentuckys and North Carolinas, so don’t give up yet, Buckeyes fans.