Matta “Couldn’t be Happier” about Wednesday’s Signings
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Take a quick glance down just about any recruiting rankings that are out there for the early signing period. One thing you won’t see, at least near the top, is a ‘Block O.’
Photo by Jim Davidson
After a number of years near the top of the recruiting rankings, Ohio State has been nowhere to be found over the last two classes. According to Rivals.com, the Buckeyes rank 27th in the class of 2013, as signatures pour in from around the country on the first day of college basketball's early signing period.
Even that might be generous, considering Ohio State landed just two players on Wednesday – neither of whom are rating among the top 50 in the country – but OSU head coach Thad Matta isn’t worried about the future of the program.
“I think from the standpoint of what’s been accomplished in this program, there’s reason to everything and there’s nothing more true in recruiting,” Matta said Wednesday.
“If you look at the last six years, we’re number three in total wins in college basketball history, we’re trying to get our fourth straight Big Ten championship, get to our fourth straight Sweet 16…we know what we’re doing.”
The Buckeyes are rated No. 4 to the start the year and they are coming off the second Final Four appearance in eight seasons under Matta, who has brought a new level of expectation to Ohio State’s basketball program since he took over back in 2004.
He has coached a National Player of the Year, the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft and plenty of All-Americans, but the Buckeyes have whiffed on a number their top targets over the last two seasons.
They signed just one player to replace All-American Jared Sullinger and senior William Buford, the third-leading scorer in school history. That player, Amedeo Della Valle, was a kid who sort of came out of nowhere to sign with Ohio State for the class of 2012.
The same could be said for Kameron Williams, of the two players Matta signed on Wednesday.
“When I first saw Kam this summer, it was exactly what I was looking for,” Matta said of the 6-2 shooting guard out of Baltimore.
“A guard who just finds ways to score the basketball. He can do it in a variety of ways. He’s a great free throw shooter, he gets to the line, he shoots threes, he finishes, he’s very, very athletic for his size. He’s from a storied high school program in Baltimore.”
Both Rivals and Scout.com have Williams rated as a 4-star prospect out of Mount St. Joseph High School. Scout rates him as the No. 20 shooting guard in the country, and Rivals has him as the 83rd best player overall.
The other kid Matta signed Wednesday is power forward Marc Loving, who Rivals has as the 63rd best player in the country, and the No. 11 power forward in his class.
“Very exciting with both guys,” Matta said.
“Marc has been committed to us for a long time. He’s one of those guys you like in recruiting because when he committed to us he was about 6-6 and he almost 6-9 now.
According to Ohio State’s coach, Loving is a kid who really developed his ability to score the basketball. He can play small forward or power forward for the Buckeyes, which means the Buckeyes still have a little bit of a void in the front court.
They will lose Evan Ravenel, the team’s only senior, after this season and could very well lose Deshaun Thomas as well. That would mean an entirely new frontcourt for the Buckeyes next season.
Matta said there is still a possibility his staff could land another player in this class, one who obviously did not sign with anyone on Wednesday. Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall player in the class, is still taking his visits. He is interested in Ohio State, but most people expect he will join Calipari’s army at Kentucky.
The Buckeyes are not really in the mix anymore for 5-star Jabari Parker, and Noah Vonleh, who played AAU basketball with OSU football players Armani Reeves and Camren Williams, opted to sign with Indiana.
Matta’s last big one was rated No. 8 in the country. It included names like Shannon Scott, Amir Williams, Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross. All of those are expected to play major roles this season, but probably not major enough they might be in danger of losing one to the NBA.
“That’s been the hardest part. It’s having vision for your program,” Matta said.
“With the two we got, I could not be happier with. We got two great basketball players. When you shift to ’14, that’s probably going to be another big class.”
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