Another Year, Another Highly Ranked Class

You might think this is getting to be old news by now, but today Ohio State men's basketball coach Thad Matta welcomed in the nation's No. 2 recruiting class for 2008. Get a peek as to what he had to say on the newest Buckeyes as well as thumbnail snapshots as to what he thinks of each new player.

The letters are in, and Ohio State men's basketball coach Thad Matta can officially welcome in the four members of his class of 2008.

In the case of B.J. Mullens, that welcome seems like it is coming about three years later than it initially should have. A 7-0, 260-pound center at nearby Columbus Canal Winchester, Mullens has basically been a fixture on the OSU landscape since Matta arrived in Columbus in 2004.

As it turns out, it took all of two days for Matta to decide to offer the five-star prospect. While watching two separate games at a summer camp in Suwanee, Ga., Matta found himself being impressed by the play of one player in particular.

"This big kid catches and shoots a jump hook and I said, ‘Hmm, he looks pretty good,' " Matta said on Thursday. "The next time he comes down, he catches and he dunks. I look and I'm like ‘223' and I get my book out and I go down and I'm like, ‘223, Byron James Mullens, Columbus, Ohio?' "

Matta took out his cell phone and called John Groce, his associate head coach, telling him that if Mullens added 15 pounds Matta felt he could help the program next season. Groce advised him to take a closer look at the booklet.

"John goes, ‘Thad, look what grade he's in,' " Matta said. "I get my book back out and see 2008. I'm like, ‘This kid's not even in high school yet.' That was the first time I ever saw him. I had no idea who he was and I felt like he had a chance to be pretty special."

At many schools, landing a prospect of Mullens' stature and reputation would be hailed as a major event. Under Matta at OSU, he just becomes the third center 7-0 or taller to commit to the Buckeyes in consecutive years.

It is a testament to where Matta has taken a program that was under NCAA sanctions when he first arrived. With a class that also includes five-star shooting guard William Buford, four-star point guard Anthony Crater and three-star shooting guard Walter Offutt, Mata has landed the nation's No. 2 class according to Scout.com.

Although he does not like comparing his current – or future – players to players who have already gone through the program, Matta likened some of his class of 2008 to previous players under his regime. In addition, he drew parallels between these four freshmen and the ones he landed two years ago in a class dubbed the "Thad Five."

"I think we've got a lot of positions covered," he said. "I think that with the size and the athleticism, guys that can do certain things, I think there is a parallel there."

However, not everything has gone according to plan during the past two years. Three members of the class of 2007 are already on NBA rosters, which has thrown a wrench into some of Matta's plans.

"The plan was Michael (Conley) was going to teach Anthony for a year, maybe two years," Matta said. "That went out the window last June. When we looked at this class, we said we're going to need, we'd anticipated two of those guys being gone we were hoping after this year. We thought B.J. could come in and fill a void where Greg was."

Instead, Crater will likely immediately step in as the heir apparent to OSU senior guard Jamar Butler at point and the hope for Mullens is that next year he will team up with Kosta Koufos to form a formidable duo in the paint.

Matta originally had a fifth member of the class in five-star power forward Luke Babbitt, but he opted to stay close to home and switch his verbal commitment to in-state Nevada. As a result, he said the staff is "keeping an open mind" regarding the late signing period should they find another player to sign.

Here is what Matta had to say on each of the four members of the class: Crater – "Anthony is a true point guard. The thing that first caught my eye about him is his ability to pass. He's got a great understanding of the game of basketball and really sees things well. I thought he was very similar to Michael in that regard of just setting the table, setting guys up."

Offutt – "The thing I love about Walter is he's a tough, physical, strong guard, kind of a combo if you will. He's worked really hard on his shot and had a great summer shooting the ball. I think the other thing with him is I kind of view him as a David Lighty. Defensively, can guard a couple different positions. As I'd watch him play over the course of the summer he would always pick the best player on the other team and really try to shut him down."

Buford – "William is a very gifted offensive player. He can score in a variety of ways. He handles the ball, drives it, he's got a step-back game. It's good because of his size. He's 6-5, long, just really has a great scorer's mind."

Mullens – "With his size, he's added great strength to his body. He's very athletic for a 7-1 guy. He had a tremendous feel for how to play. I think he's going to really help us with a low-post presence and shot blocking and rebounding."


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