There was really no other option. In senior Shannon Scott and five-star freshman D’Angelo Russell, the Buckeyes really only have two point guards on the roster going into the 2014-15 season.
“Yeah, Greg is out of eligibility,” head coach Thad Matta quipped of assistant coach Greg Paulus, himself a college point guard at Duke.
So those have been the two men running the show for the Buckeyes, who lost senior Aaron Craft from last year’s team but still have two men they feel comfortable with. And that’s a good sign considering Russell is yet to play a minute of college basketball.
The No. 13-ranked player in the class of 2014, Russell (6-5, 180) already impressed during the Buckeyes’ practice sessions over the summer.
“He’s a winner, and he’s got a great feel for how to play the game of basketball,” Matta said of Russell. “It’s funny, starting out here he threw a couple of passes where it hit the guy and they didn’t even know it was coming. I had to be like, ‘Hey now, he can do some things off the pick-and-roll that we haven’t had. He’ll find you.’ ”
Russell was rated the No. 2 shooting guard by Scout coming out of Montverde (Fla.) Academy and has also played some off the ball since arriving at Ohio State, versatility that could provide him even more of a chance to make an impact in his first year in the program.
Though he didn’t fill up the stat sheet in the Bahamas – he had seven points, five assists, two rebounds and three turnovers in the opening game and then didn’t play in the second because of illness – Russell enters OSU with plenty of accolades, including back-to-back prep national titles for Montverde. He participated in both the Jordan Brand Classic and the McDonald’s All-American Game and in the summer of ’13 won multiple national titles and was co-MVP of the Nike Global Challenge.
So far, those skills have impressed even Matta, who is looking for consistent scoring after the Buckeyes struggled to fill the net last year and then said goodbye to the team’s top three scorers in Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross.
“I’ve been very, very pleased with what he’s done,” the 11th-year head coach said. “Defensively, he gets his hands on things. He plays longer thank you think, and he can score a lot of different ways. He’s shot the ball really well thus far.”
Russell highlights a standout recruiting class ranked 10th in the nation that also includes five-star prospect Keita Bates-Diop, four-star forward Jae’Sean Tate and three-star center Dave Bell. Each had standout performances in the Bahamas, with Bates-Diop scoring 18 points in one game, Tate pouring in 14 in that same contest and Bell snagging seven rebounds in the blowout win vs. the Providence Storm.
“They look really good,” Scott said. “They still have a lot of things they have to learn being in a new system and being in college basketball, but I love the way they play. They are long and athletic and they have a good understanding of the game so I really enjoy that.”