Some say one man's trash is another man's treasure. Ohio State is hoping they have struck gold with a pair of players making second stops to collegiate basketball.
Ronald Lewis and Sylvester Mayes might be used goods as far as college basketball is concerned. But they are hardly the old belongings nobody wanted.
In the car industry, ‘used' cars have now been more professionally termed, ‘pre-owned' because the former term denotes more of a devalued mentality than that of the latter.
There's no depreciation here, however.
Lewis and Mayes should be legitimate fuel to an Ohio State basketball team that with a tune-up and an oil change could be speeding down the fast track of the national basketball stage.
The 6-5 Lewis is a Columbus native who played his high school basketball at Brookhaven High School and landed at Bowling Green, putting together a pretty nice resume in two short years. In his first season, Lewis was named to the MAC All-Freshmen team, and in his second season, he was the Falcons' leading scorer at 17.0 points a game.
He accepted a scholarship to transfer to Ohio State in August of 2004 after announcing his intentions to transfer from Bowling Green. Lewis drew the ire of many who questioned whether he was showing selfishness and at times showed to be a lackadaisical defender.
But after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer regulations those concerns seem to have run their course. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta, according to all reports, has been quite happy with the progress made by Lewis.
"Ron, being in the program last year, as we get started, is going to have a real good feel for what we want to do," Matta said.
The colorful Lewis is never at a loss for words – or attention. More notorious than his confidence and outspoken demeanor is the selection of dress suits he often wears, which are more bold and conspicuous than a shiny, new Lamborghini.
But Lewis says he's found a more humble approach to life and basketball.
"You know, it's exciting to come here and be a team leader, but also just contribute," he said.
Unlike Lewis, who for all intents and purposes was not considered much more than a decent prospect out of high school, Mayes was ranked as high as No. 19 in the entire country his senior year by HoopscoopOnline.com in 2003.
A native of South Bend, Ind., Mayes played his senior season in Ft. Wayne before ultimately moving on to the junior college ranks, where he played for Steve Eck at Redlands Community College in El Reno, Okla. Mayes' issues were more about academics and his home life than about basketball.
After a troubled adolescence, Mayes wound up at El Reno. It led to the 6-2 guard being an NJCAA Division I First-Team All-American last season as a sophomore, where he averaged 19.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.9 steals a game. His nearly 20 points a contest were good for No. 17 in the nation in the NJCAA.
Just for good measure, Mayes, who will come to Ohio State as a combo guard capable of playing off the ball or playing the point, averaged 41.5 percent from 3-point range.
"He's a good shooter, a real good shooter," Lewis said of Mayes. "He's a good driver as well. He does a lot of things that will make our team a lot better."
Senior co-captain Terence Dials has been impressed with the added dimension brought to the table by Mayes and Lewis.
"They are going to bring a high-level of play to our team and a lot more athleticism to our backcourt," Dials said of his teammates. "I really think we filled all the positions that needed to be filled this year, and I think we're going to be all right."
The key for Ohio State is hoping these juniors in eligibility replace departed seniors Tony Stockman and Brandon Fuss-Cheatham as an overall plus in shooting, defending and creating more plays with less turnovers. They will likely give Ohio State added perimeter scoring for a team picked by the media as preseason No. 6 in the Big Ten this year.
One of the biggest philosophies of Matta and his staff is to find players that can play multiple positions. That's why they are licking their chops with both of these found treasures.
"One of the things that impressed me most in watching Mayes play one day last year, was he basically said, ‘I know I'm going to get my scholarship but I'm going to get my teammates a scholarship'," Matta said of Mayes, "and for a game he basically distributed the ball. From that standpoint, I have no problems with him at the point. He's got a great feel for the game."
One comparison that has been thrown around with Mayes in terms of frame and playing style is that of former Buckeye Scoonie Penn, who played for Ohio State in 1999 and 2000.
Mayes is quick, stands slightly taller than Penn at roughly 6-0 and has an NBA shooting range with the ability to dish and defend. Of course, there's no leader like Penn was for Jim O'Brien's Buckeyes during an unexpected Final Four march.
But perhaps that's why Matta hopes that comparison has any validity.
"I hope so," he laughed. "Believe me, I really hope so."
While Mayes is considered first a shooter and a passer with the capability of penetrating, Lewis on the other hand, likes to create shots with his ability to drive the lane and get to the foul line with his athleticism and strength.
However, Lewis has been applauded by nearly everyone, including Matta, for a consistency from shooting outside. But the lien on Lewis is still his bread and butter.
"It's there, but I'm not going to use it as my strongpoint," Lewis said of the 3-pointer in his arsenal. "I'm going to stick to what I know best, but believe me, it's there and it will come out."
This season, Matta is planning to put a lot of miles on this pre-owned pair. Although it's at the mercy of health and circumstance, he hopes to play a more up-tempo style of play.
"We really want to get out and run," Lewis concluded. "Coach Matta wants us to push the floor at every opportunity."
In basketball terms, having Lewis and Mayes for two seasons might be the car-purchasing equivalent of missing out on that brand new car smell in favor of a used vehicle with 60,000 miles.
Ohio State just wants from point A to point B.