Trouble In The Basketball Program?
March 29, 2016
In the last 48 hours, the basketball Buckeyes have lost 3 freshmen to transfer. Daniel Giddens announced his intentions yesterday to leave the program for family reasons. Today, Mickey Mitchell and A.J. Harris followed suit. That makes 4/5 of the highly touted, and top 5 recruiting class who have departed the program in the last 6 months. That trio joins Austin Grandstaff who bolted for Oklahoma in November.
So, now the question is, who do we hold accountable? The natural reaction is to blame Thad Matta. That is certainly fair, but is it him or is it the culture of the young athlete who enter big time college basketball feeling entitled without having to earn a spot? I am leaning toward the latter. There are some of the belief, myself included, that the culture in the program needed a change. It is possible Coach Matta laid out an ultimatum to these kids in postseason discussions to change their attitude and work harder. We will never truly know what was said behind closed doors, but the program may be better off without guys who don’t want to be here.
So, the bottom line is, the top 6 scorers from a year ago return and yes, Trevor Thompson will be coming back, despite the fact he used the new rule allowing him to attend the NBA draft combine but not hire an agent, a fact that Thompson himself has reiterated. The Buckeyes will also be adding 6’10” center, Micah Potter, who had a big senior year for national power Montverde Academy in Florida and also Derek Funderburk, a 6’9” power forward and 4 star recruit out of Lakewood, Ohio. There is also a strong possibility of adding 6’7” wingman Andre Wesson of Westerville South, son of former Buckeye Keith Wesson, who recently led his team to a state title and who's brother is committed to the 2017 class.
Matta and company will also be hosting University of New Mexico wingman Cullen Neal who averaged 17 ppg as a redshirt freshman, and dipped to 12 ppg this past year on a depleted team and will be eligible immediately under the graduate transfer rule and have 2 years of eligibility remaining.
An additional possibility is Markell Johnson, a 4 star PG from Cleveland who is the #2 overall player in the state of Ohio for the class of 2017, but is on track to graduate early and may reclassify to 2016. He currently has Ohio State as 1 of his 5 finalists, but earlier this evening, Johnson put out the following tweet:
Markell Johnson @kells_2017 1h1 hour ago
If you would’ve told me at the end of the season I could trade Mickey Mitchell and A.J. Harris for Andre Wesson and Markell Johnson, I would’ve taken that in a second and not looked back. Giddens will be missed for his defense and he seemed to have potential to be a very good player here, but Funderburk and Potter come in with a much more refined offensive game in the post, which is where the Buckeyes struggled in many games this season. Is there a question about Matta? Maybe. 3 down years after the heights he had taken this program to is probably fair. He was burnt by a highly rated recruiting class that never developed and lost D’Angelo Russell before anyone expected so he had to restock the cupboards and suffered the growing pains and apparently a culture issue with the class he brought in. 2016-17 is most definitely a big year for Coach Matta and he’s well aware, but if he can land at least 2 of the guys mentioned above and signs point to at least 2, then we may be seeing the turnaround quickly. If not, he still returns the top 6 players from a year ago and not many teams can boast that.