Men's Basketball Recruiting
Thinking Out Loud: Ohio State’s Basketball Recruiting
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — While Urban Meyer is capturing most of the recruiting headlines in Columbus these days, Thad Matta is quietly putting together a strong class for the 2014 season.
It has been a couple years since Matta landed a big name like Jared Sullinger or Deshaun Thomas, but Ohio State is right in the thick of things for some of the top prospects in the country for next year’s class.
The Buckeyes signed two players in the 2013 class – forward Marc Loving out of Toledo and Baltimore’s Kameron Williams – but they already have three on board for the 2014 class.
That includes recent commit David Bell out of Garfield Heights. The 6-10 forward/center fills a critical need for Matta in the 2014 class, as both Amir Williams and Trey McDonald will be seniors that season.
Bell is a bit of an unknown in recruiting circles because he missed a lot of time with a foot injury last year. There was some initial confusion over why Matta decided to offer this in-state kid so early on when they are going after so many other kids on a national level, but I'm hearing only good thing about him.
Matta recently saw him play at the Flying to the Hoop event in Dayton, and the OSU staff feels like Bell is going to explode next year when teams really get to see his athleticism for a 6-10 kid. I'm hearing Bell could shoot up the rankings – he’s considered a three-star right now – but he's still not one of those elite kids who comes in and dominates from day one.
He's a little bit more like Amir Williams in the sense it's going to take him a year or two to really get a feel for the college game. I’m being told “potential starter” by his sophomore year with his junior season really being the "coming of age" year for him.
Bell joins a 2014 class that includes a pair of 4-star wings in Jae'Sean Tate of Pickerington and Keita Bates-Diop of Illinois, but if you're looking for instant impact, keep an eye on center Jahlil Okafor out of Whitney Young High School in Chicago.
This is the No. 1-ranked player in the 2014 class, so there are going to be some major heavyweight fighters battling for the 6-10 center, but I'm hearing Ohio State is definitely a player here for both Okafor and point guard Tyus Jones out of Apple Valley, Minn.
Those two would really like to play together at the next level, and Ohio State is trying to sell Jones on the idea of replacing Shannon Scott as the starting point guard in Columbus.
Duke is probably the school to beat for both Okafor and Jones, while Michigan State and Kansas are going to be right there at the end, but I'm being told no staff is putting in more work with these two blue-chippers than Ohio State.
Another kid they are working hard on is five-star forward Leron Black out of Memphis. He was originally committed to Baylor, but met with Matta and the OSU coaches soon after de-committing and I’m hearing there are good vibes going both directions right now.
The Buckeyes are selling him on the idea of starting as a freshman and having a lot of the offense run through him. At 6-7, 215 pounds, Black is an ideal Thad Matta-type recruit. He’s an excellent rebounder and defender for his size, but he’s also a kid who knows how to put the ball on the floor and finish around the rim.
Florida, Louisville and Kansas are the three other big players here with Missouri also in the mix, but it sounds like Ohio State is at or near the top of Black’s list at the moment.
Ohio State really feels like 2014 can be a program-changing class. I’m hearing it could be as big as six kids – including the three they have now – and the Buckeyes really need to land one of these 5-star kids if they want to compete at a high level, which means Final Fours and national championships.
That’s the standard to which Matta is holding himself at this program.
Two other names to watch for 2014 are forward Trey Lyles out of Indianapolis and guard JaQuan Lyle out of Evansville, Ind. Lyles is the No. 5 overall player in the class of 2014 according to Rivals.com and already has offers from Duke, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, UNC and UCLA.
He was once committed to Indiana, but now seems to be favoring the Kentucky Wildcats.
Lyle holds offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Tennessee and Ohio State, but Indiana and Louisville are considered to be the front-runners at the moment. He recently eliminated UK from his top 10 list, which still includes the Buckeyes.
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