OSU hoops recruiting - A look ahead (Pt. 1)

Down the road, Ohio State basketball will have some scholarship spots that need to be filled. Today, A.T. Buckeye brings us an in-depth look at the team's recruiting needs and the players who might fill them. In part one of this report, he discusses the team's needs and also breaks down the point guard position.

OSU HOOPS RECRUITING
Upcoming Recruiting Decisions

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2004

Many Buckeye fans are looking forward to both 2002 and 2003 as years where the program can extend the success it has enjoyed the previous 4 seasons. A Final Four, 2 Big 10 Championships, 1 Big 10 Tournament Championship, and 4 straight NCAA appearances are things few programs in America can boast today. But on the recruiting calendar, the page is actually turned to the year 2004--- the season the rising junior class in the High School ranks will don college uniforms.

If history is any lesson, the recruitment of this class has begun in earnest already. Several Big 10 schools -- including Iowa, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan St., and Minnesota -- have secured one or several verbal commitments for this class. The fact that Ohio State is not one of those schools is meaningless on its face since there are countless prospects still available, and OSU is already making inroads with several of them. Better yet, the Buckeyes have four scholarships available in 2004, and as things stand today, an additional four available in 2005. The flexibility granted by eight scholarships over a two-year period is an advantage in being able to offer a wider range of prospects while not having to limit the options to one position.

Again, a roster check of the 2003-2004 Buckeyes will give some indication of what the staff is faced with when tabulating what type of players to recruit into the program.

2003-04 Roster

  FRESHMAN SOPHOMORE JUNIOR SENIOR
Point Guard (1)     Fuss-Cheatham (1)  
    Billings (1/2) Stockman (1/2)  
Wing Guard (2)       Jernigan (2)
    Sullinger (2/3)    
Wing Forward (3)   Sylvester (3)    
         
Power Forward (4)     Bass (4) Z. Williams (4)
  I. Harris (3/4)   Dials (4/5) Jenkins (4)
Center (5)     Marinchick (5) Radinovic (5)

Projected Starters in BOLD

This is an extremely balanced and deep lineup, with a solid "2-deep" at every position on the floor. Injury to any one player, while of course harmful, would not be devastating. When recruits look at a program, besides a winning tradition, a likable coaching staff, and a strong conference, one of the other issues that absolutely comes up is Playing Time (PT). More so than in football, being an early contributor is high on an incoming freshman's list of priorities, and more importantly, it is realistic. In recent years, Brent Darby, Zach Williams, and Terence Dials were all important cogs in the Buckeye machine the first year they put on the uniform.

Of the 9 projected returnees, 5 are backcourt performers, while 4 are post players. Of particular concern are the two 4-men (Jenkins and Williams) that will likely log 80-90% of the minutes at that position that season. Ivan Harris may bulk up enough to alleviate the starter's position immediately, but competing in the Big 10 requires solid backups. Thin teams usually find themselves at the tail end of the standings.

The staff has some interesting decisions to make with regards to the number of incoming frontcourt players they accept. Here is Bucknuts' take on how the class will be represented by position:

2004-05 Roster

  FRESHMAN SOPHOMORE JUNIOR SENIOR
Point Guard (1)       Fuss-Cheatham (1)
      Billings (1/2) Stockman (1/2)
Wing Guard (2)        
      Sullinger (2/3)  
Wing Forward (3)     Sylvester (3)  
    I. Harris (3/4)    
Power Forward (4)     Bass (4)  
        Dials (4/5)
Center (5)       Marinchick (5)

Point Guard (1): One true pointman will be on the roster (Fuss-Cheatham) in 04' and he will be in his senior year. The two individuals that back up the position are actually natural 2-guards that have the skills to man the position. One of them (Stockman) is also a senior that season. This means, without a doubt, a point guard needs to be included in this class.

Wing Player (1): This is probably the position where the most competition for minutes will occur this particular season. Sullinger, Sylvester, Stockman, Billings, and perhaps even Harris will be vying for roughly 80 minutes of playing time between them. Whoever enters this mix needs to be extremely talented to earn time. OSU has had no problems awarding minutes to a freshman that outperformed an upperclassman (most recently Terence Dials) so the concept of seniority will clearly not frighten any newcomer off.

Most likely, one highly skilled wing player will be a part of this class. Added on to holdovers, plus the point guard, this will make seven backcourt players on the roster. It is an easier problem to deal minutes out in the backcourt, given that these seven players cover three positions (In the frontcourt, only two players will get minutes at once). Given Ivan Harris' ability to swing between the 3 and 4, the staff may choose to not bring in any more wings at all…. Bucknuts' guess is that one of the elite performers on the radar will want to join up with the Buckeyes.

Post Players (2): Clearly the Bucks need to bring on at minimum two players with the ability to bang inside. One needs to be a legitimate center who will likely log immediate minutes. The other needs to be a 4-man with the same type of inclinations as Jenkins and Williams -- bangers with heart and toughness to spare.

The need to develop players at these positions is furthered by the class of the additional big men. Terence Dials and Matt Marinchick will both be seniors in the newcomers' freshman year. The presence of two interior players in this class is a no-brainer. Even three (one to replace each graduating player) is not out of the realm of possibility-again depending on the returns on wings.

Now, given these predictions for the needs, who will the Buckeyes be evaluating? Here are some early looks at some of the talent available in 2004. Sources close to the program have indicated that these are some of the players the Buckeyes will go after heavy.

POINT GUARDS

2004 presents an interesting crop of lead guards, many of whom seem to be small shooting guards masquerading at the position due to their height. Make no mistake, however, the sheer number of nationally renowned point men is impressive--- much higher than many of the more recent years. Disappointingly for Buckeye fans, the one representative from Ohio consistently found on lists of elite prospects is Jamar Butler, who has already offered a verbal commitment to Cincinnati. Regardless, there are many other prospects out there still evaluating their options, and OSU is driving hard to build mindshare with all of them.

Without further ado, here is quick look at some of the available talent on the Bucks' radar:

MARQUIE COOKE- (6-3, PG, Suffolk VA, Nansemond River HS). As with many of the players in this category, Cooke classifies as a shooter who is growing into the point guard position. He is very offensive minded and physically put together. This is also a kid that has been a known quantity in recruiting circles for quite some time.

"He's a very sturdy guard with a big reputation" says recruiting analyst Dave Telep of the http://TheInsidershoops.com."He can finish with contact in the lane, will make some 3's, and is a good passer."

Numerous high major programs, including Kentucky and Virginia, are also interested in Cooke's services. Clearly the type of combination guard skills Cooke seems to possess would be a good fit with the OSU system.

DUPREE FLETCHER- (5-11, PG, Milwaukee WI, Rufus King HS). Fletcher is another offensive machine slated for a high-major program. Despite his size, Fletcher has had no issues putting up big numbers at any level of competition, as evidenced by his 20.9 PPG average at the Adidas Big-Time tournament.

"He's a warrior guard", says Telep. "This young man is fearless and hunts his shot. In AAU ball, he's called on to be a scorer but we think he's got PG skills in him.".

What should prove interesting in Fletcher's recruitment is what level of interest he might have for the high major programs in his state. Wisconsin has already secured a point guard in both the class of 2003 (Kamron Taylor of Minnesota) and 2004 (Michael Flowers of Wisconsin) and Marquette has already secured the services of one in 2003 (Brandon Bell of Michigan). As an elite player, it would seem Fletcher's best options might be out of state. "OSU really liked him last summer and gave him a good look" continues Telep. "Again, he's wired to be a scorer but his size says point guard material."

TAUREAN GREEN- (6-0, PG, Brandenton FL, IMG Academies). Yet another offensive-minded backcourt performer, Green attends the well documented IMG Academy in Florida, known for cultivating athletes at the youngest of ages (IMG is a worldwide Marketing/Sports representation organization). Green is the son of former NBA frontcourt bruiser Sidney Green, who is currently the head coach at Florida Atlantic University.

"He has good range on his jumper and his playmaking is really coming along" notes Telep.

Recent years have seen several kids in similar situations (with fathers serving as mid/low Major D1 coaches) opt for the best offer available. The Capel Brothers, Jeff and Jason, who had solid careers at Duke and North Carolina respectively, come to mind. Clearly, Green has the talent to play high-major D1 basketball, and the amount of schools interested in his services will undoubtedly balloon.

RICO HARRIS- (6-1, PG, Detroit MI, Denby HS). No OSU outlook on recruiting would be complete without a sampling of players from the Detroit area. Two guards from this geography have committed to the Buckeyes in recent years (Brent Darby of River Rouge and Ricardo Billings from Detroit Rogers) and the sheer number of D1 prospects in the city ensures that more than just the Michigan schools are able to restock their shelves.

Harris plays on a team with several other D1 prospects, including Xavier-committed Darrell Garrett. He plays his summer ball on the renowned Michigan Hurricanes travel squad, and is without a doubt the future member of a high-major roster.

ANTHONY "A.J." PRICE- (6-0, PG, Amityville NY, HS). Price is a player that has experienced a lot of success in his young career at the prep level. Teamed with current Villanova freshman Jason Fraser, Price has already played on several New York State championship teams. Much like many of the other players noted in this article, Price is noted more for his offense than his playmaking at his current stage of development.

"People call him a point", says Telep, "but when we've seen him be successful, it's been as a scoring guard and it's been from downtown". Clearly, Price is the type of offensive minded point guard that would do very well in a Jim O'Brien system. It may be interesting to note how much Price fills out, and how that affects his eventual college position.

BRIAN ROBERTS- (6-0, PG, Toledo OH, St. John's). Roberts is the lead guard for one of the top Big School teams in the state of Ohio, and is the teammate of one of the elite rising sophomores in Ohio, WF Ben Raymond. Already, Roberts has been in to see Ohio State unofficially on at least one occasion, and his prep team's success ensures he will stay on the radar of many a recruiter for the remainder of his prep career.

Roberts is a member of the elite All-Ohio Red AAU squad, which featured Columbus Brookhaven standouts and future Oklahoma Sooners Andrew Lavender and Brandon Foust.

SEAN SINGLETARY- (6-0, PG, Philadelphia PA, Penn Charter HS). Perhaps a purer point man than any other player on this list, Singletary also prides himself on his defense like few do at this level. Already, he is drawing early attention from numerous high major programs including North Carolina State, Florida State, Memphis, and Virginia.

DARIUS WASHINGTON- (5-11, PG, Orlando FL, Edgewater HS) One of the elite players in the class of 2004, regardless of position, Washington gained instant notoriety this summer from his head-to-head matchups with the highly acclaimed Sebastian Telfair. Clearly, this is a kid who's decision will be tracked with much interest as some analysts have him as high as a top 5 selection.

"He'll sacrifice himself when needed and make clutch, deep 3's." notes Telep. " Sometimes he gets caught up in being a showman, but he is clearly a top 25 prospect"


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