The Big Board: Men's Basketball

We made The Big Board famous for coverage of Ohio State football. But today we take a look at where things stand with Ohio State men's basketball. We look at the players due back in 2005-06 as well as those pledged to OSU in the future as well as those coach Thad Matta and his staff could be targeting.

The Big Board has become a popular feature to take a semi-annual look at the Ohio State football roster.

Today, though, we will unveil the very first edition of The Big Board for OSU men's basketball. We examine OSU's personnel by class for this year's team as well as the prospects who have verbaled and those OSU could be recruiting.

Breakdown By Class

Returning starters denoted with an asterisk.

* Seniors (4) -- C Terence Dials* (6-9), G Je'Kel Foster* (6-3), G-F J.J. Sullinger* (6-5), F Matt Sylvester (6-7).

* Juniors (3) -- F Ivan Harris* (6-8), G Ronald Lewis (6-4), G Sylvester Mayes (6-2).

* Sophomores (2) -- G Jamar Butler* (6-2), F Matt Terwilliger (6-8). (NOTE: Jermyl Jackson-Wilson, a 6-7 forward, is in this class, but has asked for permission to transfer.)

* Freshmen (1) -- C Brayden Bell (6-10).

* Verbals for 2006 (2) -- G Daequan Cook (6-5), G-F David Lighty (6-5).

* Verbal for 2008 (1) -- C B.J. Mullens (6-11).

* Scholarship Status -- College teams can have 13 players on scholarship. Provided Jackson-Wilson leaves, OSU would have 10 scholarship players in 2005-06.

That number dips to six with the departure of the four seniors, leaving as many as seven scholarships open. OSU already has verbals from a pair of high school seniors-to-be in Cook and Lighty. That means OSU could take as many as five more players in this class. More likely, they will bank one or more spots for the following year.

Then, with three seniors in the Class of 2007, OSU could take a minimum of three players in the class.

Mullens' verbal gives OSU a cornerstone player in the Class of 2008.

* Analysis -- The Buckeyes have five starters back from last year's team that finished 20-12 overall and 8-8 (sixth) in Big Ten play.

Three of the starters – Dials, Sullinger and Harris – started all 32 games in coach Thad Matta's first season as the OSU coach.

Dials figures to be among the Big Ten's best big men this season after averaging 15.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game last year. He was a second-team All-Big Ten pick.

Sullinger was third on the team in scoring at 12.0 points per game. He also averaged 5.4 rebounds and was tops in three-point shooting at 44.6 percent (25 of 56).

Harris was sixth on the team in scoring (7.3 percent) and also showed a strong touch from three-point range (42.7 percent). As the season wore on, Harris lost minutes at the power forward position to Sylvester.

Sylvester was fourth on the team in scoring at 8.0 points per game. He became the sixth man and ended up hitting one of the biggest shots in school history with his three-pointer to knock off No. 1-ranked and previously unbeaten Illinois in the regular season finale.

Foster (7.7 ppg, 42.8 three-point percentage) and Butler (3.6 ppg) supplanted seniors Tony Stockman and Brandon Fuss-Cheatham at the two guard and point guard spots, respectively, as the season wore on.

The only other returnee would be Terwilliger, who played just 76 minutes over 15 games as a freshman.

New to the fray this year would be Lewis, Mayes and Bell. Lewis practiced with OSU last year after transferring in from Bowling Green. He started 55 of the 60 games he played at BGSU, averaging 14.6 points per game in his two-year career there. He averaged 17.0 points as a sophomore.

Mayes comes in from Redlands (Okla.) Community College, where he earned first-team JUCO All-American honors and led his team to a 26-5 mark as a sophomore. He averaged 14.4 points and 5.6 assists per game as a freshman.

Bell was a second-team Class 5A All-Utah pick as a senior, when he averaged 20 points per game. He averaged 17 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots as a junior.

The Buckeyes figure to be a factor in the Big Ten race in 2005-06. Dials will be the starter at the center spot once again. Provided he stays healthy and is again able to average roughly 33 minutes a game, OSU should be in good shape in the paint.

But there should be heavy competition at every other position.

Butler and Mayes will be the leading candidates at the point. Foster and Lewis will be the key names at the two. Sullinger returns at the three. The fact is Matta could mix and match all five of those players between those three spots all season long.

Harris and Sylvester will likely again split time at the four. If Matta wants to go big, he could also install Terwilliger and Bell at that position. Those two will be Dials' leading backups as well.

* Looking Forward -- Cook and Lighty are a great start on the recruiting class for 2006. They each issued early commitments to Matta and his staff and are due to sign letters of intent in November.

They are Ohio's top two prospects and are also among the nation's top 25 juniors, according to One or both could see heavy minutes as a true freshman in 2006-07, especially with Foster and Sullinger gone after this coming season.

Cook averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds per game as a junior, earning Division II co-player of the year honors. Lighty averaged 24.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game as a junior before his season was cut short due to an ACL injury.

With Dials and Sylvester leaving after this year, Matta and his staff know they will desperately need some help inside as well.

They have targeted a number of key inside prospects like Indiana's Greg Oden (7-0, ranked as nation's No. 1 junior), Tennessee's Thaddeus Young (6-8, No. 5 junior), New Jersey's Lance Thomas (6-8) and Indiana's Luke Harangody (6-8). They may also take a strong look at Canton McKinley's Raymar Morgan, a 6-7 forward who could play the four similar to Harris/Sylvester in Matta's system.

Of course, many believe OSU has the inside track to land Oden as well as his high school and AAU teammate point guard Mike Conley (6-1). Oden could be projected as a high NBA draft pick – if not No. 1 – in 2006. But he maintains he will enroll in college. It appears that he and Conley are trying to decide between Ohio State and Wake Forest.

Obviously, any class that includes Cook, Lighty, Oden and Conley would fill most if not all of OSU's needs and would also almost certainly be among the top three classes signed anywhere this year.

Also in the running could be Illinois guards Devan Bawinkel (6-5) and Will Walker (5-11), Michigan guard Luke Freeman (6-3), Connecticut forward Rob Thomas (6-5) and Indiana forward Jamil Tucker (6-9).

Looking forward to 2007, OSU may already have some irons in the fire. Potential prospects in that class include Indiana guard Eric Gordon (6-2, an AAU teammate of Oden, Conley and Cook), Ohio power forward Dallas Lauderdale (6-8) and Ohio guard Dante Jackson (6-5).

More names to remember here are the North College Hill trio of O.J. Mayo (6-5), Bill Walker (6-6) and Keenan Ellis (6-10) as well as Dayton Dunbar's Aaron Pogue (6-8, high school teammate of Cook's) and Canton GlenOak forward Kosta Koufos (6-9).

Mullens anchors the 2008 class already for OSU. Ohio is also loaded that year with the likes of power forward Yancey Gates (6-8) and guards Anthony McBride (6-1), Devon Moore (6-2) and Rayshawn Goins (6-5).

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