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Like every coach in college basketball, Ohio State’s Thad Matta is often criticized by fans and supporters. One thing Matta is not usually criticized for, though, is his ability to recruit top-notch talent.
Except for this upcoming season.
Ohio State’s 2012 recruiting class does not have any player ranked in the top 150. In fact, the Buckeyes’ class contains a grand total of one commit: Amedeo Della Valle, a 6’3” point guard from Henderson, Nevada.
Coming off a season that resulted in a trip to the Final Four, the Buckeyes lost All-American forward Jared Sullinger and guard William Buford, OSU’s third all-time leading scorer. It was also a season that ended with Jordan Sibert and J.D. Weatherspoon electing to transfer to Dayton and Toledo, respectively. With those four out of the picture, many Buckeye fans seem to be very concerned about the lack of a 2012 recruiting class.
The sky is not falling, though. Next year’s Buckeyes will be just fine.
Replacing Sullinger and Buford will no doubt be a challenge, but OSU has several players that were patiently waiting their turn on Matta’s bench just a year ago.
Everybody knows what point guard Aaron Craft and forward Deshaun Thomas bring to the table. Lenzelle Smith Jr. will also likely maintain his role from a season ago as the starting shooting guard. The rest of the rotation, though, may be where the concern lies.
Sam Thompson and Shannon Scott showed flashes of greatness in their brief moments on the court last season. Thompson had several highlight reel dunks and showed he could be a solid defender, but he seemed hesitant and uncomfortable on the offensive end with the ball in his hand and must improve his jump shot. Scott also showed the ability to lead the team when Craft was not on the floor. Scott, like Thompson, must improve his outside shooting, as he only shot a dismal 28.2% from the field and just 5.6% from three point range. And no, that is not a misprint.
Thompson and Scott will no doubt have increased roles on next year’s team, but the two players everyone should be excited to see next season are LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams.
Ross is a 6’8” wing with a silky smooth game. After an academic issue caused him to miss the beginning of the season, he appeared in just nine games for OSU. But, the scouting report on Ross is that he’s very gifted offensively and can get his shot off over anyone. He also possesses that rare ability to score in bunches, a lot like Thomas. He is extremely long which could be valuable on the defensive end. The Buckeyes are going to need someone not named Deshaun Thomas to put the ball in the basket. Ross has the potential to be that guy for OSU. If he is not, the Buckeyes will struggle to score.
Last year, Williams showed, in stretches, why he was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school. He also showed moments of immaturity and why he wasn’t ready for big-time minutes yet. Games in which Sullinger got in foul trouble, Williams was called upon to fill in sparingly, and, for the most part, did his job. His biggest strength may be his ability to change shots on the defensive end. He appeared in 29 games for the Buckeyes, averaging only 6.6 minutes per contest, and was able to block 23 shots on the season. Not an alarming number, but one can hope increased minutes will lead to more blocked shots. He will have to improve his offensive game, too. Williams shot 52.8% from the field last season, but a majority of those field goals came from dunks. He also shot just 10 for 28 (35.7%) from the free throw line.
Without a big name recruit coming in for Thad Matta’s team for the first time since 2009, the departure of Sullinger and Buford, and the decisions by Sibert and Weatherspoon to transfer, OSU fans have been a bit worried about the lack of the 2012 recruiting class and how it will impact the Buckeyes next season.
It comes down to this: Scott and Williams were both McDonald’s All-Americans a year ago, Ross has the ability to be a dominant offensive player and Thompson is an incredible athlete with the ability to only get better. The best part about that? None of them played more than 11 minutes per game last season. Matta’s been known to use a tight rotation, so it does not hurt if there is one year where freshmen do not come in and make a huge impact. There was some serious talent riding the pine last year, and it is now their time to shine.