Schott in the Arm: Careful Wishin'

Although the early departures of three Ohio State freshmen wasn't an easy pill for Buckeye fans to swallow, it is something that comes with the territory. Ohio State fans wanted better recruiting and more excitment, and they definitely got it. Kyle Lamb explains in his column why there is a downside to this kind of recruiting.

Be careful what you wish for. That's the mantra every avid Ohio State basketball fan should be reminding themselves every day.


In the shower, while cooking dinner, while lying in bed at night pondering what could have been. Just remember it doesn't take an American Idol to tell you that you just might get it all.


Ohio State basketball, namely its director Thad Matta, is in somewhat a precarious position. The entire fate of the program rests on the professional aspirations of his teenage recruits.


Thursday night, Matta saw his program make history. Three freshmen were drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft. Two of them, Greg Oden and Mike Conley, his former prize recruits from Indianapolis Lawrence North, were taken in the first four picks of the draft – a feat that is unprecedented for high school chums in the same draft, the same season.


While Ohio State narrowly missed out on the highest of successes – a National Championship, the future of the program is left only for water cooler fodder. The simple truth is that no one knows for sure when, or even if, the Buckeyes will get back to prominence in the form of playing for the ultimate title.


"Can you imagine the team we would have had next season?" Matta asked rhetorically in the Columbus Dispatch.


Matta didn't get the chance to find out with Oden, Conley and Daequan Cook all declaring after their rookie seasons for the bright lights and fast pace of the NBA. While Oden's departure wasn't so sudden and terribly unexpected, the sting of only having Conley for one season was probably a bit new to the young Matta.


Thus begins what I see as a continuing trend with Ohio State. Does anyone believe if Kosta Koufos is as good as advertised that he'll be around more than one or two seasons? What about B.J. Mullens or even William Buford?


That's the bad news. The good news: would anyone in their right mind trade that National Championship appearance, and instead, revert back to Jim O'Brien's recruiting philosophy?


Absolutely not, I imagine.


Certainly Matta is far from doomed. But it is proof positive that even Matta's incredible run of good fortune is not immune to being snake-bitten by today's landscape of college basketball.


Oden, Conley and Cook's departures were Matta's first taste in the dark side of recruiting at the utmost highest level. The elusive power forward often escaping Matta on the recruiting trail (i.e. Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe and now Luke Babbitt), is just another obstacle he's learning about on-the-job.


This, I recall, is in fact what people wanted.


Very few coaches have been privy to the magical secret at winning very early in their careers. The ones that did are probably in the Hall of Fame to begin with.


My hunch is that Matta is no exception. It's hard to picture the next few years having any better a chance for Ohio State to win a National Championship than this past season. Not only did they miss out, but few thought they really had much of a chance this quickly to begin with.


Am I saying Ohio State cannot win a title with the talent coming in? On the contrary – I think they can. However, I think there's a little too much talent.


Perhaps the cynics are correct. Perhaps Matta's surreal recruiting is a blessing in disguise to rivals of the Buckeyes. Maybe, just maybe, Ohio State will continue to be depleted by early departures and will be victims of their own success.


Do you think Billy Donovan had the Midas touch immediately?


A quick review of Donovan's past recruiting classes would suggest otherwise. Sure, back in 2000, Donovan, like Matta, led a young up-and-coming program to the National Championship. This time, it was the Big Ten team (Michigan State) that won, and Florida was decimated following the season by the losses of Donnell Harvey and Mike Miller.


On the surface it seems Donovan's back-to-back National Championships in 2006 and 2007 were the product of a consistent, successful recruiting effort in the past 10 seasons. However, statistically, it appears Donovan slightly changed up his recruiting philosophy.


Back in 1998, Donovan's first major recruiting class, he brought in Miller, Teddy Dupay, Ladarius Halton and Udonis Haslem. Using RSCI rankings for the top three players in each class, Miller, Dupay and Halton ranked an average of 28.6.


The 1999 class averaged 15.3 for the top three players: Harvey (the nation's No. 1-ranked player), Brett Nelson (No. 7) and Matt Bonner (No. 38). In 200, the class consisted of just Orien Greene (No. 25) and Bonnell Colas.


The 2001 class was a monster. However, the two best players didn't even make it to campus. Kwame Brown (No. 6) and DeSagna Diop (No. 8) gave that class an 8.0 average for the top three players including David Lee (No. 10). In 2002, the average dropped to 36.3 with Anthony Roberson (16), Matt Walsh (40) and Mario Boggan (53).


From 1998 to 2002, the average RSCI ranking of the top players in Florida's classes was 22.3. There were a total of 10 players ranked in the top 25, if you include Brown and Diop.


You think that it's possible Donovan got sick of being burnt? It seems as if he's since begun searching for players that will stick around a little longer.


In 2003, the class of this past year's seniors, Chris Richard (No. 43), Mohamed Abukar (No. 46) and Ryan Appleby (No. 90) combined on a 59.7 average. While Abukar and Appleby left the program, unranked Lee Humphrey became one of the backbones of the Gator program with his uncanny shooting. The following 2004 class (48.0 average RSCI for the top three players), became the crux to the back-to-back titles.


Corey Brewer (25), Al Horford (47) and Joakim Noah (72) combined with unranked Taurean Green and Cornelius Ingram. The former four have been solid starters the past few years. Meanwhile, the 2005 class followed with only Derwin Kitchen (63) ranked in the top 100 in the RSCI. Walter Hodge, Jimmie Sutton and David Huertas also were a part of the group. Marreese Speights (No. 60) and Doneal Mack (84) were the top two players in the 2006 class.


Since 2003 using just the ranked players alone, the average dropped from 22.3 to 58.9 in the RSCI. Florida signed just one top-25 player (Brewer) in the last four years, excluding the 2007 recruiting class.


The moral of this story is that talent is only one form of the equation. In my estimation, perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if Matta went on a diet and cut back on a few McDonald's burgers every so often. It doesn't seem the juice is necessarily worth the squeeze.


But hey, I don't hear anyone complaining. Nor should they – but at least people are getting what they wished for.


I'm sure it didn't help the bittersweet heartburn Matta had watching the draft on Thursday.  



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