A Tale Of Two Days

One had a spectacular performance, proving himself to be one of the nation's elite players. The other had a game to forget. Still, Daequan Cook and David Lighty each left OSU's Schottenstein Center after Monday's Dunbar-VASJ battle with an eye on a future filled with optimism. After the game, each player discussed their performances as well as what the future holds.

On Sunday, Daequan Cook and David Lighty were the best of friends. They were 40 percent of the highly regarded ‘Thad Five' and having a blast together with several Ohio State recruits on hand for a sold out crowd in Ohio State's double overtime loss to Michigan State.

But on Monday, it was a different story.

Cook's Dayton Dunbar Wolverines squared off against Lighty's Cleveland Villa Angela St. Joseph Vikings at the Schottenstein Center in the Martin Luther King Memorial Day Classic. It was the same building they hung out with fellow 2006 Ohio State recruits Mike Conley & Greg Oden among a host of other younger recruits, but it was a much different story.

"Like I tell anyone, between the lines, I don't have any friends," Cook said after Dunbar beat Lighty and Villa Angela St. Joseph 101-53 on Monday evening. "Outside the lines we can be friends all day but in between the lines, just good luck."

Cook and Lighty are considered the top two players in the state of Ohio for the senior class. Ranked as Nos. 16 and 29 respectively by ScoutHoops.com, they are apart of a recruiting class considered No. 1 or No. 2 nationally depending on whom you ask.

Conley and Oden were apart of the sellout crowd on Sunday for Ohio State's 62-59 loss to the Spartans along with Cook and Lighty, but while Cook dropped 41 points on Monday against Lighty's team, Lighty was only able to counter with 10 points.

David Lighty looks for an open man

The two have been cordial friends over the past several months since committing to Ohio State back in the spring. Their last time playing together before becoming teammates next fall might have been an enjoyable experience for Cook, although not so much Lighty.

"We talk on the phone every now and then, but I think it will be a while before I talk to him now," Lighty said with a smile after the game.

The pair may have a different take on their showdown on Monday, but told a similar account of their trip to Columbus on Sunday.

They joined an impressive list of talent that included several commitments and Ohio State's top recruiting prospects for the next three years. Among the players that joined them for Sunday's nationally televised game were Oden and Conley from the 2006 recruiting class, (Ohio State commitment) Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale, Kosta Koufos and Dante Jackson from the 2007 class and (Ohio State commitments) Walter Offutt and B.J. Mullens as well as Toledo Libbey's William Buford from the 2008 class.

While many of those players have already committed to play for the Buckeyes, Lighty and Cook are hoping others join them.

"I think there was about 9 or 10 recruits that was there yesterday that probably would be starting in the next two years on any college team in America," Lighty noted, "and hopefully if they all come we can do something good with it."

After the game, many of the players went into the locker room and talked to some of the players and coaches. Lighty left because his high school team was busy going out to dinner with CBS analyst and Ohio State alum Clark Kellogg, but most of the recruits got the most out of the experience.

For instance, Koufos was seen shooting around for quite a while after the game on Sunday. Some Dunbar observers described him as looking very impressive.

While the recruits came out to watch the Buckeyes play, some of the players returned the favor.

In addition to head coach Thad Matta and assistants John Groce and Alan Major watching Villa Angela – St. Joseph and Dunbar on Monday, current Buckeyes Ron Lewis, Matt Terwilliger, Je'Kel Foster, J.J. Sullinger and Terence Dials were all seen watching the action from the stands.

"I talked to them (some of the players) yesterday and they told me they were going to come see me play," Cook recalled. "They had not had a chance to see me play yet and they told me they were going to come see me."

Most impressively, Foster, Sullinger and Dials are all seniors and will not even be at Ohio State next year when the heralded recruiting class arrives.

Cook and Lighty battle for a rebound

That spoke volumes to an otherwise disappointed Lighty.

"That shows you the type of family atmosphere Coach Matta has here," he explained. "They aren't even on our team and yet they showed up to watch us."

One of Cook's future teammates, Jon Diebler, has averaged nearly 39 points a game this season.

Diebler received some hefty attention this weekend for his most recent accomplishment, however. He scored 77 points in a game along with 16 rebounds in a 105-110 win for Upper Sandusky against Tiffin Columbian.

The performance, which came on 22-of-42 shooting, grabbed the attention of Cook.

"It was amazing. I have never heard of anyone doing that. It's big," he said. "I was surprised to hear it. People ask me that question (about scoring that many points) but me and Diebler have different teams and I don't feel like I have to score that many points for my team to win."

Not to be outdone…Cook grabbed 15 rebounds of his own on Monday, in addition to the 17-of-29 shooting that led to his 41 points.

The best news of all, however, is that his performances won't likely go to waste next season as Cook confirmed that his academics are in order and he will be fully qualified.

"I passed it," Cook said of his ACT and SAT scores, which qualify him by the NCAA's clearinghouse on a sliding scale based on a combination of core GPA and test scores, "but I'm going to take it again to get a better score. I know I passed but still I know I can do better than what I got."

Lighty, on the other hand, might not have any academic concerns, but he's still trying to nurse his knee back to health.

Although he is 100 percent as far as full participation, the torn ACL he suffered in March usually means athletes take two full years to fully return to previous form.

He will continue to wear his knee brace for the rest of the season and hope to be back to normal by next year. Right now, Lighty experiences no pain or discomfort, but he's still inconsistent with the explosiveness and play-making ability he once had.

Lighty has had his ups and downs this season, averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds heading into Monday's game, but just 10 points and four rebounds against Dunbar left some people disappointed about his progress.

"I know he can play better than that," Cook told reporters. "When he is healthy he can be explosive. I've played against him and I know he's played better than that."

With Lighty at 100 percent and presumably back to his old self, Cook with his grades in order and Conley, Oden and JUCO Othello Hunter all on campus next year, the Thad Five should make its presence felt immediately in Columbus.

Cook talked about their expectations.

"I want to play hard and put Ohio State back on the map," he explained of his goals. "That's the main thing – and also, win national championships."

He said he hoped Sunday's atmosphere for a big game against Michigan State was just the beginning.

"Yesterday's game – just imagine it," Cook said of the Michigan State crowd on Sunday. "We lost yesterday, but when we win, it's going to be even crazier."

Sunday was a loss for Ohio State but Monday was a win for Cook, albeit at Lighty's expense.

However, next year they will be working together.

"After that performance, you've got to love him," Lighty said after the game of his future teammate's 41 points.


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