Thinking Out Loud: Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and the OSU Defense
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When I first sat down to write this piece, I was working on a feature story on point guard Shannon Scott and how he improved his game at both ends of the floor during the offseason.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Talking to Shannon on Ohio State’s media day earlier this month, I got the distinct impression he is in a much better place mentally than he was a freshman last year, and he could really be a guy who makes big plays for the Buckeyes at both ends of the floor.
Thad Matta brashly proclaimed Shannon would be the most disruptive guard in the country this year. While I’m quite certain that title still belongs to Aaron Craft until further notice, it’s pretty clear Matta has high hopes for Scott’s sophomore season.
Shannon told me Thad specifically told him to go out and be the player he recruited out of high school. I don’t think Shannon was that player a year ago. He seemed hesitant and lacked the kind of confidence it takes to play point guard at a big time basketball school, which Ohio State has quietly become since Matta took over the program back in 2004.
Now in his ninth season in Columbus, Matta said he told Shannon this offseason point guards have to talk out on the court. They have to be vocal at both ends of the floor. They have to be leaders; the same way quarterbacks have to lead.
I’m not sure that aspect comes naturally for Shannon – maybe he just didn’t feel comfortable being that way last year as a rookie backup – but he appears to be a much more confident basketball player than he was in the limited exposure he receiver a year ago.
“In high school, I feel like I was more athletic then a lot of players, so I felt like I could get to anywhere I wanted on the court,” Scott told me.
“If I really needed to get a basket, I would probably do some type of pull-up. I kind of went back to that this summer to make that a go-to move for me. I also worked on shooting threes and shooting open shots because I know that’s going to come this year.”
What should also help Shannon feel more comfortable is a more aggressive style of play on both sides of the ball. Matta sees Scott as a guy who can push the ball up the floor as quickly as any player in the country, and the staff would really like to play both he and Craft in the backcourt at the same time.
“Coach Matta talks about all the time he wants us both in there creating havoc and putting pressure on the defense and the offense,” Scott said.
“So I’m pretty sure we can do that this year.”
Paging Amir Williams
If the Buckeyes are going to play the way Matta wants them to play this season without Jared Sullinger and William Buford, he’s really going to need Amir Williams to become a reliable backstop under the basket.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The more I listen to these guys talk and the more I think about this team and what Matta wants them to be, the more I start to believe Williams is really going to be a huge determining factor of how good they can be.
I might be in the minority, but I still think Evan Ravenel will be the starting center for this team, at least early in the year. He’s a senior, a total team guy and one of the leaders who Matta can trust on a young basketball team. His ceiling is not nearly as high as a guy like Amir Williams, but his basement also isn’t as far underground.
Eventually, matchups and rotations may determine who actually starts the game, but it’s pretty clear to me this team can't truly play the way they want to play without Amir back there on the back end.
More than anything, it sounds like Thad would really like to cut Craft, Scott, Lenzelle Smith and Sam Thompson loose this year to create steals and get in passing lanes. He wants them to push the ball faster than any team he's ever coached, and they feel like they have the athletes to do it.
In order to do that, Matta would love to give his perimeter guys more freedom to gamble on passes and really play aggressively out on the wings, but it only works if they have a shot-blocker around the rim who can keep guys from getting easy baskets off dribble-penetration.
That’s something they simply did not have with Sullinger a year ago. In fact, it was probably the exact opposite. Matta wasn’t going to be extra aggressive on the perimeter and funnel the ball inside to Sullinger, where he could risk picking up unnecessary fouls at the defensive end.
With Ravenel, and possibly Trey McDonald, around to provide some depth in the paint, Matta should be able to let Amir Williams go after some shots this year. Of course, that only matters if Amir is ready be that type of impact defender in the paint.
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