Tall, athletic, lengthy wing players have littered OSU's recruiting classes for the better part of the past decade, dating back to Matta successfully landing Daequan Cook and David Lighty in 2006. Since then, Evan Turner, William Buford, Deshaun Thomas, Sam Thompson, LaQuinton Ross and Marc Loving have all fit a similar bill for the Buckeyes, providing versatile scoring options for the OSU offense.
Keita Bates-Diop certainly looks the part of a Buckeyes basketball player. At 6-7 and 185 pounds, the 19th-ranked player in the 2014 class has the size that Matta often seeks -- and the skill to match.
"You're getting a long 6-7.5, 6-8 athlete that can really really shoot the basketball," Matta said, unsurprisingly gushing over Bates-Diop's size. "From the standpoint of playing multiple positions, he scores, he passes, he rebounds, he can defend, he can handle the basketball."
Playing just a an hour southwest of his future home, Bates-Diop put on a show at the Good Samaritan Flyin' to the Hoop Invitational in Kettering, Ohio this weekend, scoring a game-high 31 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in University's 89-78 loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary on Sunday. Dueling with Fighting Irish 2016 five-star small forward (and Ohio State target) V.J. King, Bates-Diop made six of his 10 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc and in front of several OSU fans in attendance watching the future Buckeye for the first time.
"Being back here, all the adrenaline, I was ready. In warmups, I was feeling it and I came into the game and was hot," Bates-Diop said on Sunday. "It was great because most of those people haven't seen me play and I wanted to give them a taste of what they're gonna be seeing."
Ohio State fans clearly have plenty to be looking forward to in Bates-Diop, especially considering the offensive issues that have hit the current Buckeyes squad. Given his size and skill set, Bates-Diop can play both forward positions and even some center, should Matta opt for a smaller lineup as he has consistently done in each of the past two seasons.
Asked what he sees his role being in Columbus once arriving on campus, Bates-Diop pointed to that of a current Buckeye, while also expressing excitement over teaming up with OSU's current freshman forward in Loving.
"Something like what LaQuinton Ross is doing now," Bates-Diop said, referencing OSU's 6-8 wing player and leading scorer. "Marc's long and I'm long. It'll help us on defense and shooting over people too."
That's not to say, however, that Bates-Diop is a finished product.
Given his lanky -- even scrawny -- frame, he knows that he has bulk to add. Double-digit rebounding numbers won't come easy in college at his current weight, nor will consistent minutes in one of the country's most physical leagues.
"If I went into the Big Ten right now, I'd get beat up," he admitted. "I definitely have to put on a lot of weight and muscle."
Bates-Diop won't be the only one adding help for the basketball Buckeyes next season, as he'll be joined on campus by a trio of classmates in Montverde (Fla.) Academy five-star guard D'Angelo Russell, Pickerington (Ohio) Central four-star forward Jae'Sean Tate and Garfield Heights (Ohio) three-star center Dave Bell. Having already built a bond between themselves despite their distance, Ohio State's 2014 freshmen are hoping to make an immediate impact in the college ranks.
"We have all the pieces coming in here. D'Angelo's like a good combo point guard. Jae'sean's tough on defense, strong. I'm getting ready to watch Dave play right now, but we've definitely got a special group," Bates-Diop said. "We want to come in and do special things quick."
Also in line with the quality of character that Matta has had a knack for recruiting, Bates-Diop knows that doing as much will be easier said than done. There may be a few little things left for the five-star prospect to add to his game, but if he can do that, he'll have the opportunity to be the next player to vindicate his head coach's love of length.
"Definitely rebounding and becoming stronger and everything that comes along with being stronger. Grabbing rebounds, being physical on defense -- all that kind of stuff," Bates-Diop said when asked what he needs to improve on before the start of his college career. "I have things to work on so I can get out on the floor and show people that I can shoot."