"This will be your show next year, Jamar," one OSU fan said as he sidled up to signee Jamar Butler, a decorated point guard from Lima (Ohio) Shawnee.
"Could you sign this for my son?" another fan asked.
Some are already considering the 6-2, 190-pound Butler to be a savior for the OSU program which, barring four wins in four days at this weekend's Big Ten tournament, will miss the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year.
That is understandable. After all, OSU suffered from inconsistent guard play all season long. Plus, Butler will come to Ohio State with a resume as the state's 11th-best all-time scorer with 2,382 career points. He averaged 31.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game for a Shawnee team that finished 17-5.
Speaking after the game, Butler discussed how he might fit into the picture next year.
"I'm just a scoring point guard who looks to get my teammates the ball," Butler said. "As a freshman, I will try to come in and be a leader for the team."
Butler switched his verbal from Cincinnati to Ohio State last summer, then made it to as many OSU football and basketball games as he could. He was impressed with the electricity inside Value City Arena Sunday as the Buckeyes made what appears to be their last stand.
"They fought all game and kept playing," Butler said. "They fought all the way through. That is the first time I've heard this crowd that loud in a long time."
At the same time, he said it‘s hard to have to wait another six months before he enrolls.
"I don't even like coming to the games because that just makes me want to put a uniform on and get out there," he said.
Butler said guards Ricardo Billings and J.J. Sullinger hosted him on his official visit last fall. He will enter a situation next year where shooting guard Tony Stockman and point guard Brandon Fuss-Cheatham will be seniors, while Billings and Sullinger will be juniors. Nick Dials, a walk-on put on scholarship this year, will be a sophomore.
"There will be a lot of seniors on the team next year," Butler said. "I'm just going to look up to them and follow their lead."
Butler was still dealing with the heartbreak of his team's Division II sectional tournament loss to Van Wert, a 51-47 decision on Friday when he was held to just nine points on 2-for-11 shooting from the floor.
"It came down to a one-point game," Butler said. "I penetrated and dished, but our guy dropped the pass. Then, they hit their free throws and they beat us. That was a hard way to end up. We wanted to get out to the districts and the regionals and try to make it here to the states."
Butler is keeping his fingers crossed that his regular season performance was enough to garner him Ohio's Mr. Basketball award. The Associated Press figures to announce the All-Ohio teams and Mr. Basketball award winner during the week of the boys state championships later this month.
"There are a lot of politics involved, sometimes, with the awards," he said. "You never know. It would be nice, I know that."
Butler is among three OSU signees from the early period in the fall. He was joined in this class by 6-9 forward Matt Terwilliger of Troy, Ohio, and 6-7 forward Jermyl Jackson-Wilson of Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy and Milwaukee Rufus King.
OSU coach Jim O'Brien has at least one more scholarship to offer for the spring signing period. OSU's number one target remains 6-5 Malik Hairston, a shooting guard and national top-10 prospect from Detroit Renaissance. Hairston is expected to announce between OSU, UCLA, Kansas and Michigan later this month.
There will be three seniors (Fuss-Cheatham, Stockman and Matt Marinchick) on the team next year, so O'Brien would have at least three scholarships for next year's class.