OSU Hoops: Out of the Frying Pan & Into the Future

What does next season have in store for the Ohio State men's basketball program? How about 2006? Even 2007? Kyle Lamb gets out the crystal ball today and takes a look down the line at what we might expect from the OSU men's basketball team.

As he was introduced as the new head men's basketball coach at The Ohio State University, Thad Matta told the story of a gift he received from a neighboring Buckeye fan.

"Mert Prophet," Matta said the man's name was.

"Thad, I hate to see you leave but I know you're going to do well," the man said to Matta. "I want to give you a going away present."

The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a Buckeye. Matta told the man he wasn't going to Ohio State. But the man didn't care.

"You hang on to that," he said. "One day it's going to work for you."

For the past three years, Matta was true to his word, and he did hang on to that Buckeye. And now, as Matta makes light of the man's last name, Prophet, the man's gift seems awfully appropriate.

And hopefully, well, prophetic.

"This is the greatest job in the world for Thad Matta," an excited Matta proclaimed last month at his introductory press conference. "I've accepted this job for one reason and one reason only, and that is to bring Ohio State basketball back into national prominence."

Although the Hoopeston, Ill. native is happy to be at Ohio State, the decision didn't come easily. A torn and confused Matta was racing down the road nearly 20 miles an hour over the speed limit on Wednesday July 7th uncertain of his future.

Should he stay at an up-and-coming Xavier where he had already built a strong program into an Elite Eight representative, or should he bolt for the Big Ten, in the heart of the place he grew up?

A female police officer pulled Matta over for speeding and reminded him of the fact.

"Yes ma'am I have," Matta acknowledged.

As the officer asked Matta if there were a problem, Matta informer her he was thinking of taking a new job. The officer proceeded to ask what he did for a living.

"I'm a basketball coach," he told her. "I coach at Xavier University."

"Really, I went to Ohio State" the officer replied.

"I just took the job," Matta informed her.

"Have a great day."

Whether Matta had that Buckeye that Mert Prophet gave him a few years back during this exchange is uncertain, but surely the Buckeye was already working well for Matta just as Prophet had promised.

Just two months on the job, Matta seems to be rubbing the very same Buckeye for luck on each and every day. Quickly he has turned what looked to be a bleak and disparaging 2005 recruiting scene into a plentiful fountain of potential reward.

Road trips, recruiting evaluations, tournaments, phone calls, hand-written letters, media appearances, luncheons, interviews, you name it and he's done it.

And all of this has come before he's even unpacked and organized his basketball office.

In a short time, Matta has seemingly rescued the interest of several high profile national recruits that was nearly dead in the water just a month before after the firing of Jim O'Brien and long absence of a head coach.

In addition to what seems to be a strong presence in the recruiting world, Matta has already proven he can coach.

As the head coach for Xavier in three seasons, he compiled a 78-23 record. In just four seasons as a head coach, he's an impressive 102-31 (.767), just the sixth coach ever to record 100 or more victories in his first four seasons on the job.

Matta's high-octane offensive philosophy keeps fans on the edge of their seats and recruits hanging by the phones.

While Matta was busy hiring former associate head basketball coach Dan Peters away from the University of Cincinnati, he was beginning to cash in his enormous prestige amongst high school coaches—especially in the southern part of the state, while donning an Ohio State golf shirt.

Questions still linger about the future of Ohio State basketball in regards to potential NCAA sanctions regarding the status of Alexsander Radojevic and Boban Savovic.

Radojevic was given $6,000 by O'Brien to help his poverty-stricken and war-torn family back in Yugoslavia after Radojevic signed back in 2000.

Savovic, meanwhile, has a dark cloud looming over the Ohio State program for allegations that Ohio State knew of improper housing and benefits being given by Kim Roslovic, a former lover.

Roslovic and her husband Dan, also boosters of The Ohio State University, are alleged to have negotiated living arrangements with Kathleen Salyers in exchange to pay her back for all debts—something Salyers claims never happened.

The real trouble lies within the fact Salyers claims that former assistant coach Paul Biancardi knew of the arrangements, and even assisted in them as well as helping Savovic academically by way of doing assignments for him.

None of these allegations seem to matter to Matta, however. He has stared them right in the face and is willing to deal with whatever comes his way.

"I do realize we've got challenges," Matta said. "But I'm here to roll up the sleeves, go to work, and bring this thing back."

Despite tackling the problems head-on, Matta might not even have as much as initially thought to deal with.

Several recruits and high school coaches, who have spoken with Matta and his staff during the recent contact periods, have said that Matta believes the penalties, if even applied, will be on the light side.

Athletics Director Andy Geiger echoes that sentiment.

"I don't believe that this coach, this team, will be punished severely," he said recently.

Matta has apparently landed at a place he could call home for a long, long time.

"This is the pinnacle for me," he said of landing the Ohio State job. "Today I stand here and I feel like I've reached the top."

If the spoken words of a now infamous Prophet are true, Matta has reached the top. Matta will now begin his career with the Buckeyes.

That little nut given by Prophet will come in handy after all.

A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE OF BUCKEYE BASKETBALL

With all of the things Thad Matta is doing with Ohio State in a short time, it's a good opportunity to look at the upcoming season as well as years beyond by way of projected rosters, lineups, and recruiting classes.

Could Ricardo Billings be set for a breakout season?

THE 2004-2005 SEASON

Coming off of a very disappointing 14-16 season, the Buckeyes are in need of a new outlook. Of course, most people were just hoping for a strong recruiting class and an improved defensive performance, but Buckeye fans instead were given a new head coach.

This season's team hinges upon how much productivity and leadership they get out of a point guard. Also, perimeter defense must be improved on for the Buckeyes to be successful. It is not out of the question for this group to win 20 games if it gels as a unit and finds the defense and leadership we mentioned. An NIT appearance seems realistic.

 

2004-2005 ROSTER (* Denotes scholarship players)

Seniors (*3)

2 Brandon Fuss-Cheatam* 6-1 PG Beaver Falls, PA

54 Matt Marinchick* 6-11 C Hudson, OH

10 Tony Stockman* 6-1 SG Medina, OH

Juniors (*5)

15 Ricardo Billings* 6-3 SG Detroit, MI

34 Terrance Dials* 6-9 C Youngstown, OH

23 Je'Kel Foster* 6-3 SG Natchez, MISS

0 J.J. Sullinger* 6-5 WF Columbus, OH

40 Matt Sylvester* 6-7 WF Cincinnati, OH

13 Ugo Nwankwo 6-2 SG Ann Arbor, MI

Sophomores (*1)

3 Ivan Harris* 6-8 PF Springfield, OH

Freshmen (*3)

14 Jamar Butler* 6-2 PG Lima, OH

42 Matt Terwilliger* 6-9 PF Troy, OH

21 Jermyl Jackson-Wilson* 6-7 PF Milwaukee, WI

Depth Chart

First Team Second Team Third Team
PG Brandon Fuss-Cheatam PG Jamar Butler PG/SG Je'Kel Foster
SG Ricardo Billings SG Tony Stockman SG Ugo Nwankwo
WF J.J. Sullinger WF/PF Ivan Harris WF Matt Sylvester
PF Jermyl Jackson-Wilson PF/C Matt Terwilliger
C Terrance Dials C Matt Marinchick

Any of this projected line-up is obviously completely speculation, especially considering Matta is starting from scratch, but let's break it down the best we can.

At Point Guard- The job will start with senior Brandon Fuss-Cheatam because he's a senior, but let's not beat around the bush -- Jamar Butler will be starting very early into the season, perhaps even by the Big Ten schedule. The staff has been reportedly very impressed with Butler in early workouts, and if he develops the type of leadership traits this team needs, it could mean good things for the team. Butler is a sensational prospect with very few weaknesses—leadership being one of them. Tony Stockman and JUCO transfer Je'Kel Foster could also see time at the point.

At Shooting Guard- With the type of summer Ricardo Billings had, and improved confidence, Billings is primed for a breakout season. Many people believe Billings will be the leading scorer this season for the Buckeyes. Why not? After all, in the McDonald's Summer League, he often was the leading scorer for a talented Buckeye Corner squad that featured Scoonie Penn, Brent Darby, Velimir Radinovic, J.J. Sullinger, Kenny Johnson, and Donatas Zavackas. Stockman and Foster, who has a great assortment of intangibles and plays great defense, will also see time here. In another very possible scenario, Billings might play the wing and Stockman would start.

At Wing Forward- J.J. Sullinger might be the man for now, but especially watch out for Ivan Harris. Under O'Brien, Harris was stuck until he learned to play a true power forward position. In Matta's tenure, Harris may see a lot of time on the wing with his prowess for an outside shot and running the floor. I expect Harris to start by the end of the season. Matt Sylvester has to be a happy man because he's no longer in the doghouse of Coach O'Brien, but unless his attitude shapes up, this talented but unproven kid will probably still not see much time.

At Power Forward- Jermyl Jackson-Wilson is a player that will thrive with Thad Matta. Of course, he may have been in good shape with O'Brien as well, but his extraordinary defense and athleticism with an ability to run the floor gives him a great chance of starting. Harris could still see time at the PF position, as well as freshman Matt Terwilliger. Terwilliger, nicknamed Twig, needs to get stronger to hold his own in the Big Ten. The talent is there, but there's work to be done.

At Center- There might be little doubt Ohio State has the best pure post player in the Big Ten. There's no doubting that when Terrance Dials is on, there's no one in the conference that is really capable of stopping him. If he achieves any sort of consistency this season, the rest of the league is in trouble. Depth might be a concern, however, because if he goes down to injury or foul trouble, a very average Matt Marinchick must replace him. Terwilliger could be a better option to replace Dials in the post, but again, he's unproven and will need to be stronger to hold his own.

2004-2005 Recruiting

The Buckeyes will be losing three seniors (Cheatam, Stockman, and Marinchick) and have an additional scholarship available with the departure of Nick Dials.

Losing Cheatam, the Buckeyes will need a true back-up point guard for 2005-06, so Ohio State has targeted Jabari Currie, a 6-4 Detroit Pershing star as their main guy. Currie is a talented combo guard who has incredible instincts and great vision. He's a great floor general and could serve as a perfect compliment to Butler in future seasons. A JUCO point guard, Sylvester Mayes, is also a possibility in this class. The Buckeyes could benefit from a more experienced guard spelling Butler in relief.

Ohio State will also definitely need to go after a post presence. They may have found their answer in 6-11 Miami product Abdul Herrera. Herrera is a strong Ohio State lean currently, and was recently on record with Bucknuts as saying he's 90 percent sure he will be at Ohio State next season.

Herrera is ranked the 5th best center in the class of 2005 by the Insiders Hoops and was a target of both Jim O'Brien and Thad Matta before the coaching change. Another possibility could be talented Utah big man Brayden Bell.

Bell was a highly rated prospect back in the spring but has been limited in action the entire summer with a few knee injuries. Despite the injuries, he is still the 8th best center prospect by the Insiders Hoops and a top 100 national recruit. Bell has been offered by Ohio State and the interest appears to be mutual.

Wilson Chandler has become the biggest priority for Matta thus far as far as individual players go. Although the wing position might not be as big a need, Chandler is a talented, fast-rising prospect that can run the floor and play good defense on top of being a great rebounder. Chandler stands about 6-7 or 6-8 from Benton Harbor, Mich. He was long considered a lock to Michigan State this summer, but that has changed dramatically and many feel Ohio State leads for his services.

Ben McCauley, a 6-9 PF from Herminie, Pa., Kendric Price, a 6-8 PF from Massachusets, and Kyle Madsen, the 6-9 PF/C combo from Dublin Coffman, all remain possible targets in this class for the power forward position.

Prediction —Currie, Chandler, and Herrera round out a class of three leaving a fourth scholarship for an excellent class of 2006 in the state of Ohio.

THE 2005-2006 SEASON

For Thad Matta's second season, it would appear Ohio State fans might have a lot to be enthusiastic about. A second year of hard work, learning the system, and a significant talent boost should have the Buckeyes contenders for the Big Ten Title, and a return appearance to the NCAA tournament.

2005-2006 PROJECTED ROSTER (*Denotes Scholarship Players)

Seniors (*5)

15 Ricardo Billings* 6-3 SG Detroit, MI

34 Terrance Dials* 6-9 C Youngstown, OH

23 Je'Kel Foster* 6-3 SG Natchez, MISS

0 J.J. Sullinger* 6-5 WF Columbus, OH

40 Matt Sylvester* 6-7 WF Cincinnati, OH

13 Ugo Nwankwo 6-2 SG Ann Arbor, MI

Juniors (*1)

3 Ivan Harris* 6-8 PF Springfield, OH

Sophomores (*3)

14 Jamar Butler* 6-2 PG Lima, OH

42 Matt Terwilliger* 6-9 PF Troy, OH

21 Jermyl Jackson-Wilson* 6-7 PF Milwaukee, WI

Freshmen (*3)

-- Jabari Currie* 6-4 PG Detroit, MI

-- Wilson Chandler* 6-7 WF Benton Harbor, MI

-- Abdul Herrera* 6-10 C Miami, FL

Depth Chart

First Team Second Team Third Team
PG Jamar Butler PG Jabari Currie
SG Ricardo Billings SG Je'Kel Foster SG Ugo Nwankwo
WF Ivan Harris WF J.J. Sullinger WF Matt Sylvester
PF Jermyl Jackson-Wilson PF/C Matt Terwilliger WF/PF Wilson Chandler
C Terrance Dials C Abdul Herrera

With Butler, Harris, Billings, and Jackson-Wilson all having tremendous experience now under their belts, this group could be very tough to beat. Depth on the perimeter might actually become a concern with the loss of Stockman and Cheatam, but there appears little reason to be concerned.

In The Backcourt- Conceivably, the backcourt could rate as good as any the Big Ten has to offer. Jamar Butler's second season as the starting point guard on paper should be significantly better. Billings will be an All-Big Ten performer, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that he has the talent to emerge as an All-American candidate. Ivan Harris' potential is enormous, and in the new system he may thrive. J.J. Sullinger and Freshman Wilson Chandler as well as senior-to-be Je'Kel Foster provide athleticism and depth off the bench to keep this group fresh. Sylvester still has the ability to do some things as well.

In The Frontcourt- The frontcourt will still be very thin, but talented. Of course, taking a fourth scholarship player in the 2005 recruiting class at the power forward position could help alleviate this problem, but that's not necessarily a must. Dials will be first team All-Big Ten in the post, and Jackson-Wilson with a year under his belt will be a strong PF. Terwilliger will have had a year to bulk up, and possibly contribute a lot. Herrera ideally would be red-shirted, but there's just no possible way that can happen. He will have to learn on the job as Dials' successor.

2005-2006 Recruiting

With a scholarship left over from the previous season, and five seniors graduating, Ohio State on paper will have six scholarships to offer the class of 2006. However, we expect it will end up being only five awarded scholarships as Ohio State could conceivably receive a commitment from the best of possible recruits—Ricardo Billings for another season of eligibility.

Recently, we have been hearing that Billings, in addition to his work on the court this summer, has dramatically improved his standing academically and might be eligible to graduate his course work within the allotted four years the NCAA gives you to restore a fourth season of eligibility lost as a Prop 48 casualty.

With the five scholarships, Ohio State could bring in a sensational haul. Daequan Cook, the top ten 6-4 SG from Dayton Dunbar is the headliner of the class. Cook is without question the top target for Matta, and Ohio State has possibly the best chance of anyone to land him. Michigan and North Carolina are the early competition.

Richard Semrau, a 6-10 PF from Rocky River Lutheran West has become a target of many top tier national programs, and will also be someone Matta goes all out for. He is a skilled big man with a perimeter touch. He needs to get stronger but has all of the tools necessary to succeed. Early on, Semrau is a Kentucky lean, but Ohio State is trying to get involved.

Cook and Semrau are far from the only heralded players in this class. Another, David Lighty, a 6-5 WF from Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph has soared into the top 25 players nationally in this class. Lighty currently likes the Buckeyes as well as Syracuse, Michigan, North Carolina, and Arizona. Ohio State will need to prove to Lighty they can be a great team in order to land him.

James Dews is a 6-3 SG who needs no further convincing. Dews is from West Chester Lakota West and is a pure shooter who is very fond of Matta. He listed Ohio State and Xavier both very highly on his list of favorites before Matta left for Ohio State, and recently named OSU as a team recruiting him pretty hard. He's a big fan of North Carolina and ACC basketball, but staying close to home might be something he decides to do.

Several other highly regarded players in the class of 2006 to keep an eye on are 6-7 WF/PF Raymar Morgan of Canton Mckinley, 6-4 SG Adrian Graves of Cincinnati Hughes, 6-7 PF Josh Chichester of West Chester Lakota East, 6-3 PG Marcus Johnson of Akron St. Vincent/ St. Mary, and 6-9 C Kirk Huelsman of St. Henry.

In this class, the Buckeyes will definitely need a post player with the graduation of Terrance Dials, so if Huelsman or other post players in Ohio don't step up, they will look out of state for a center. Expect two guards, a wing, a power forward, and a post player.

For the sake of speculation, I'd give early odds to the class looking something like Dews, Graves, Cook, Morgan, and a post player from outside of Ohio.

 

THE 2006-2007 SEASON

The Buckeyes will have to find a way of replacing Terrance Dials, but will likely be loaded everywhere else. The likely return of Ricardo Billings could help this squad do big things as it will be very perimeter-oriented. A possible Big Ten Championship and NCAA appearance seem very likely at this early juncture.

2006-2007 PROJECTED ROSTER (*Denotes Scholarship Players)

Seniors (*2)

15 Ricardo Billings* 6-3 SG Detroit, MI

3 Ivan Harris* 6-8 PF Springfield, OH

Juniors (*3)

14 Jamar Butler* 6-2 PG Lima, OH

42 Matt Terwilliger* 6-9 PF Troy, OH

21 Jermyl Jackson-Wilson* 6-7 PF Milwaukee, WI

Sophomores (*3)

-- Jabari Currie* 6-4 PG Detroit, MI

-- Wilson Chandler* 6-7 WF Benton Harbor, MI

-- Abdul Herrera* 6-10 C Miami, FL

Freshmen (*5)

-- Daequan Cook* 6-4 WF Dayton, OH

-- James Dews* 6-3 SG West Chester, OH

-- Adrian Graves* 6-5 SG/WF Cincinnati, OH

-- Raymar Morgan* 6-8 PF Canton, OH

-- UNKNOWN POST ------------

Depth Chart

First Team Second Team Third Team
PG Jamar Butler PG Jabari Currie
SG Ricardo Billings SG James Dews SG Adrian Graves
WF Daequan Cook WF Wilson Chandler
PF Ivan Harris PF Jermyl Jackson-Wilson PF Raymar Morgan
C Abdul Herrera C Matt Terwilliger C UNKNOWN

Okay, we're really ahead of ourselves now. Currie, Chandler, Herrera, Cook, Dews, Graves, and Morgan are all unsigned and even uncommitted players and it's yet to be guaranteed Billings will get his fourth year back. There's a chance none of them could end up at Ohio State. But this is just to take a look at what the future could look like, so we projected it anyways based on who we feel are most likely to be Buckeyes.

Let's say this is how it plays out.

In the Backcourt- Can anyone imagine how great a backcourt of Butler, Billings, Cook, Currie, Dews, and Chandler would be? That's mentioning nothing of Adrian Graves, who also could be an impact player. Billings would be All-Big Ten, Butler could very well be an All-Big Ten point guard, and Daequan Cook would be one of the top freshmen in the country and an immediate star. Currie would provide a great back-up punch, Dews a shooter off the bench, and Chandler a talented wing.

In the Frontcourt- Simply because presumably Ivan Harris would be too good to keep off the court, we list him as a power forward for his senior season. He and JJ Wilson provide a strong 1-2 punch, with freshman Raymar Morgan coming off the bench. At post, Herrera could have possibly established himself as a strong, reliable center and Terwilliger—the more athletic and rangy of the two, would be a change of pace.

2006-2007 Recruiting

Ohio State will have likely only two scholarships remaining for the 2007 recruiting class. Just at quick glance, losing Billings and Harris, you might be surprised when you look closer and see that their needs will actually be at point guard and the post.

The post position is perfect because in this class, you have 6-8 Aaron Pogue, a high school teammate of Cook's at Dayton Dunbar, and 6-9 Dallas Lauderdale of Solon. The two should both be top 100 players. Ohio State would have a great position for either one of them, especially Pogue who would like to go wherever Cook goes. Indiana prep sensation Greg Oden, should he attend college instead of going to the NBA draft, might also be a target, although the odds are slim of getting him.

Dante Jackson the 6-3 PG/SG from Greenfield McClain will be a likely top target for this class. He has already been to several Ohio State games early on, and seems to be an avid Buckeye fan.

If you look at this class, you cannot ignore O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker. If either of those two want to come to Ohio State, you find room for them. But let's be honest, the chances of landing either one are slim. But, it would be irresponsible not to mention them in the outlook.

We'll play it safe for now and just say OSU lands Pogue and Jackson to replace Billings and Harris on the 2007-2008 roster.

The future looks bright doesn't it? Prophet's Buckeye has a chance to work wonders.


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