What (Or Who) Is Next For OSU, Matta?

The commitment by Illinois guard Evan Turner late last week could signal an end for recruiting for the 2007 class and allow Ohio State coach Thad Matta and his staff to concentrate on 2008 targets. We have comments from HoopScoopOnline.com's Chris Johnson and ScoutHoops.com's Dave Telep on where things stand with OSU recruiting.

It has been quite a two-year recruiting run for Ohio State head basketball coach Thad Matta, and that run does not appear to be ending any time soon.

Just last Thursday, Matta and his staff received a commitment from Chicago St. Joseph's Carondelet wing Evan Turner. Turner became the fourth and possibly last commitment in OSU's Class of 2007.

The Buckeyes have one more scholarship available for 2007. But it seemed possible that the staff may bank that scholarship for 2008. OSU already has two 2008 commitments as well, but would be able to take at least two more players in that ultra talented class if they bank the one left over this year.

The four-man class for 2007 – which also includes Canton GlenOak forward Kosta Koufos, Solon center Dallas Lauderdale and Upper Sandusky guard Jon Diebler – is rated presently as the nation's No. 3 class behind only Syracuse and Michigan State.

It comes on the heels of the star-studded 2006 class, which includes four national top-40 prep prospects in Greg Oden (No. 1 overall), Mike Conley, Daequan Cook and David Lighty as well as highly touted JUCO transfer Othello Hunter. That class was ranked No. 2 nationally behind only North Carolina.

With so much success on the recruiting trail, Matta has analysts singing his praises.

"If you start from the Oden class in 2006 to '08, nobody in the country can touch them right now, let alone in the Big Ten," said Chris Johnson, Ohio editor for HoopScoopOnline.com. "Michigan State has had some good classes and Illinois as well. You look at '08 already with (B.J.) Mullens and (Walter) Offutt, that is a three-year run that nobody can come close to."

Johnson said one key for Matta and Ohio State has been their ability to wrap up classes early. That has given Matta and his coaches a head start on the following year.

"The best way to describe it would be that a lot of schools have had back-to-back or back-to-back-to-back great recruiting years," Johnson said. "I don't know if any of them have done it like this. A lot of times, you might get that third class in after a couple of guys have gone pro. But a year from now – or maybe even sooner – he may be done with the 2008 class. They could have three classes back to back before the first one reaches their first Big Ten season.

"It is hard to get kids to commit two years down the road before they even see how the first class will be on the floor."

ScoutHoops.com national recruiting editor Dave Telep also gives Matta high marks for the work he has done. He sees Matta being cautious now as he doles out any remaining scholarships for 2007 or 2008 players.

"Now comes the technical aspect of managing your recruiting," Telep said. "There is a balance I am sure for Thad Matta between trying to account for if there is some attrition because of guys leaving early for the NBA or if some guys, God forbid, are unhappy with their playing time and decide to leave. You don't want to be short-handed.

"At the same time, Ohio State is acquiring some very good players. For the growth of their program, they need to leave some room for some guys in 2008. These would be the Delvon Roes and Kenny Freases, guys who are making some waves with their play of late. You want to make sure you don't let good players walk out of your state because they see a lack of opportunity.

"The next step for Ohio State is to try and achieve a technical balance between their recruiting classes."

The national rankings say it all. Here are the national rankings from ScoutHoops.com for the high school players signed or committed to Ohio State over this three-year stretch:

* 2006 -- Oden, 1; Cook, 13; Conley, 28; Lighty, 31.

* 2007 -- Koufos, 15; Turner, 49; Diebler, 62; Lauderdale, 80.

* 2008 -- Mullens, 13; Offutt, 17.

Ohio State is poised to add more talent to the 2008 class. Cincinnati Hughes Center forward Yancey Gates is ranked fourth, while Toledo Libbey wing William Buford is ranked 18th. Two more Ohio prospects – Lakewood St. Edward forward Delvon Roe and Massillon Perry center Kenny Frease – could also be top-50 prospects in that class.

The Class Of 2007

OSU moved a step toward completing its recruiting for 2007 by snagging Turner on Thursday. The verbal came literally hours before Cincinnati Harmony forward Alex Tyus was set to visit the school. It now seems unlikely that Tyus will be a part of this OSU class.

Telep talked about the four-man haul headed up by top-50 standouts Koufos and Turner.

"This class, to me, is very much a blue collar group with one potential star," he said. "You have a whole slew of guys who are different than each other and play different roles. Then, you have the one guy, Kosta Koufos, who, if things go his way, could be a star. You have a blue collar shooting guard like Jon Diebler, who just makes threes. You have a versatile guy like Evan Turner, who will give you different looks at different positions. And you have a center in Dallas Lauderdale, whose job will be to provide some depth in the frontcourt.

"It is pretty much a class that is great to stack on top of a class that was loaded with stars."

Johnson also likes what he sees with the 2007 verbals.

"I think a lot of the guys fill needs," Johnson said. "Getting two post guys was important because you don't know how long Oden will be there and Hunter only has two years as well. Getting size was very important. When you recruit, you always like to get kids from your area. They did that with the three Ohio guys and then Turner is from Illinois. Whenever you can get kids who are quality kids and quality players from your own area, it's a bonus. I think if you asked any coach out there, they'd like to have kids from the local area.

"I think the one thing a lot of people overlook is that, yes, these kids they have signed and are getting commitments from are high major kids. But the thing the coaches are probably happy about as well is they are all high major kids off the court, too. When you're at a high profile school like Ohio State, I think that is important as well."

When asked whether Tyus was still a consideration, Telep said, "I think they have to take a step back and look at the scholarship situation. There are kids like Delvon Roe, Kenny Frease and, to a degree, Yancey Gates who you want to make sure you have room for those guys. You have to look forward and see what kind of room you're going to have for the great talent in your state in the future."

Perhaps the only 2007 player who could crash the party for the Buckeyes is North College Hill guard O.J. Mayo, ranked No. 1 overall nationally. Mayo has reportedly made an unofficial visit to USC. Other schools he could consider include Cincinnati, Xavier, Kansas State and West Virginia.

"I don't know about (Mayo to OSU)," Telep said. "I think on paper you say, ‘O.J. Mayo is a no-brainer. He is the best player in the Class of 2007.' All of that is true. But now you have to look at your team and the chemistry and make-up of your team. You have to ask yourself the question if O.J. Mayo picks up the telephone and says he wants to come to Ohio State is that what's best for the chemistry and make-up of our team?

"I think that question would be hard to answer until practice starts in October. I'm not sure they'll ever need to answer that question anyway."

Johnson has kept a close watch on Mayo's recruitment.

"I think Ohio State would have some interest in Mayo," Johnson said. "But, right now, I would not be too optimistic to think something is going to happen in that regard."

The Class Of 2008

Telep looked ahead to the key prospects in Ohio for the Class of 2008. All of these players will be on display at various national camps later this week.

"There are three or four pretty strong players in Gates, Roe, Frease and Buford," Telep said. "They are all having the kind of spring and summer that gets you excited when you look at these players. Delvon Roe is coming into his own and has been since this past December. Kenny Frease is making the kind of strides you want to see a big center prospect make.

"Yancey Gates is a guy with a world of talent. With every jump shot Daequan Cook makes for Ohio State, the recruitment of Buford becomes even more important.

"I don't know how you prioritize those guys, to be honest with you. I really do think the direction of this season will dictate that a little bit. Plus, these guys are in the process of telling us who they are as players. Over the course of July, one or two of these guys will separate themselves from the pack and force Ohio State's hand a little bit."

Johnson said Matta and his staff are already hard at work on 2008.

"Obviously, they can focus on 2008 easily," he said. "Matta is lucky that he can also double-dip because Koufos and Roe play on the same team. You can watch one and see the other. The same is true for Mullens and Gates. That makes it even easier to target your 2008 guys and also see some 2009 and 2010 kids, which, certainly, very few high Division I coaches can do.

"You want to get kids from your home state first. All of those kids – Buford, Gates, Roe, Frease and the kid they have committed, Mullens – are all in the top five in Ohio for 2008. They are all probably national recruits. Frease may not be on the map nationally right now like the other guys, but I think that could change in July.

"All of these guys are going to be recruited from coast to coast by high majors. Ohio State has been able to get in on these kids already. Obviously, from a numbers standpoint, they have two to three scholarships to give. They may not be able to take all of the big kids. More than likely, one would be the case."

On the perimeter, Buford would be target No. 1 with Flint (Mich.) Southwestern Academy's Anthony Crater the top point guard prospect.

"Buford would have to be their top wing target," Johnson said. "I think it's well documented that Anthony Crater from Michigan is their top point guard target. All of these guys are from Ohio or Michigan or a neighboring state. It makes it a lot easier in the long run."

The Big Ten's Best?

So, with all of this talent assembled in one place, it is easy to assume that Ohio State should be contending for Big Ten and/or national championships beginning this season. But Telep said it's never quite that easy – regardless of how well you recruit.

"When you talk about the Big Ten, over the past few years the Big Ten's recruiting has picked up," Telep said. "There was a year about four years ago where nobody was doing that well in terms of the elite prospects. I think the team that is doing the best job of keeping on pace with Ohio State is Michigan State. They are sitting on their own great recruiting class.

"Illinois is also doing a good job. They have a pretty good class coming in with one superstar in Eric Gordon. But right now, there is no doubt that Ohio State is the flavor of the year in the Big Ten."

Johnson sees the train rolling right on down the track, though.

"For all Division I coaches, what you'd like to going into July is be able to do is have your guys committed," he said. "Hopefully, they are all also very talented guys. In Ohio State's case, that's really the past two years they have achieved both of those goals – with the exception of (Othello) Hunter who was the fifth signee last fall.

"There is a direct correlation between them getting this class this year and the class they had last year being wrapped up pretty much by this time."

OSU Basketball: Class-By-Class Analysis

The summer has seen several players come and go for Ohio State basketball. The Buckeyes had senior guard Sylvester Mayes and sophomore forward Brayden Bell each leave the program. Mayes may look to play professionally in the U.S. or abroad, while Bell has transferred back to his home state of Utah to play at Utah State.

OSU accepted a transfer from center Kyle Madsen, a Dublin (Ohio) Coffman graduate who spent last year at Vanderbilt. Madsen would be classified as a sophomore when he becomes eligible in 2007-08.

Here is a class-by-class analysis of where things stand with OSU basketball:

Current Seniors

* Ron Lewis, 6-4, G -- Pleasant surprise as athletic sixth man; averaged 11.2 points per game.

* Ivan Harris, 6-7, F -- Nicknamed the Microwave for providing instant offense off the bench; averaged 3.6 points per game; known mostly for three-point shooting (35.1 percent), but would be well served to improve his handle, defense and rebounding before next year.

Current Juniors

* Jamar Butler, 6-2, G -- Blossomed into one of the Big Ten's best point guards; was second in the Big Ten in assists-to-turnover ratio (plus-2.72); averaged 10.1 ppg and 4.6 assists per game; hit a team-high 41.4 percent of his three-point shots.

* Matt Terwilliger, 6-8, F-C -- Missed time late in the year after an appendectomy; served as Terence Dials' primary backup; averaged 2.3 points in 27 games; played well in some stretches; just needs to keep working and getting better; could get heavy minutes early if Greg Oden is sidelined due to a wrist injury.

* Othello Hunter, 6-9, F -- Will transfer in from Hillsborough Community College in Florida; would have two years left; averaged 16.9 ppg and 11.0 rpg in his second year at Hillsborough; figures in as a power forward at the college level.

Current Sophomore

* Samuel Payne, 6-2, G -- Walk-on added to the team in December; played in six games.

Incoming Freshmen

* Greg Oden, 7-1, C -- The nation's No. 1 overall prospect and likely repeat winner of USA Today national player of the year honors; shot blocking presence with great athletic ability and above average offensive skills. Averaged 22.7 ppg, 10.8 rpg and 3.5 blocks per game as a senior; also hit over 70 percent of his shots from the floor; underwent wrist surgery in June and could miss early portion of the upcoming season; still projected by many as the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft.

* Mike Conley, 6-1, G -- Ranked as the nation's 28th-best prospect; great point guard who is heart and soul of Lawrence North's title teams. Averaged 17.0 ppg and 4.4 apg as a senior.

* Daequan Cook, 6-5, G -- Averaged 24.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists as a senior in leading Dayton Dunbar back to the Division II state final four. A do-it-all guard who can take over a game when he wants to. Ranked as the nation's No. 13 prospect.

* David Lighty, 6-5, G -- Averaged 20.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 6.2 assists as a senior in leading Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph to the Division III state final four. Rebounded nicely from knee injury suffered late last year and could be an explosive scorer and play maker at the college level. Ranked 31st nationally.

* Kyle Madsen, 6-10, F-C -- As noted, Madsen would be a sophomore in 2007-08. But for now, he fits in with this class. After averaging 16.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks his senior year at Coffman, earning second-team All-Ohio, he received a redshirt at Vandy.

Commitments For 2007

* Kosta Koufos, 7-1, F -- Koufos missed the final month of the high school season with a broken foot. Before the injury, he averaged 24.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 4.2 blocked shots per game as a junior. He is ranked 15th nationally.

* Dallas Lauderdale, 6-8, C -- Lauderdale averaged 21.0 points as a junior. He is rated 80th nationally.

* Evan Turner, 6-6, F -- Turner is ranked 49th nationally. Picked OSU over Illinois.

* Jon Diebler, 6-5, G -- This sharp shooter averaged 34.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 5.0 steals and 3.5 blocked shots per game. He is rated No. 62 nationally.

Commitments For 2008

* Walter Offutt, 6-3, G -- Averaged 9.4 points and four assists per game at Indianapolis Warren Central as he came off a knee injury. Rated 17th nationally.

* B.J. Mullens, 7-0, C -- Mullens averaged 17.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.0 blocked shots per game as a sophomore at Canal Winchester (Ohio) World Harvest Prep. He has since transferred to nearby Canal Winchester. Rated 13th nationally.

Scholarship Status

The Buckeyes will only have 10 players on scholarship this year and only nine of them will be eligible because of the Madsen transfer.

With two seniors leaving and four verbals for 2007, OSU would have 12 scholarship players available for 2007-08. They could add one more 2007 signee or save that spot for 2008.

Three seniors will leave after 2007-08 and there are two verbals already for 2008. If OSU saves the last spot from 2007, they would be at 11 scholarship players committed for 2008-09. They could sign two more players from that class. Of course, that number could fluctuate as early as next spring, when Oden could opt to turn pro.

Stay tuned to The Buckeye Grove for details on where the key prospects will be camping this week.

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