Versatile Guard Finds Right Fit At OSU

Ohio State men's basketball coach Thad Matta has never had a problem bringing in some of the nation's top recruiting classes since becoming the Buckeyes head coach. That reputation continued when he landed a verbal commitment from four-star prospect Lenzelle Smith, who was in town last weekend to see the football game and meet with the coaches.

Ohio State's 34-21 victory against Minnesota on Sept. 27 was a cause for celebration for more than one reason.

First, it meant the football team got off to a winning start in conference play and gathered some momentum for the next week's game. Second, running back Chris "Beanie" Wells made his return to the Buckeye lineup and helped power the OSU victory.

Last but certainly not least, Lenzelle Smith was there to celebrate becoming the fifth verbal member of the OSU men's basketball team's class of 2010. Having issued his verbal pledge to the program at a press conference Sept. 22 at his Zion-Benton Township, Ill., high school, Smith said he found the fit he was looking for in OSU head coach Thad Matta and the Buckeyes.

"It had a lot to do with Coach Matta and the staff," his father, the Rev. Lenzelle Smith Sr., told BuckeyeSports.com. "They just did a fabulous job building a relationship in a short period of time. They did all the right things. There was just something different about the way he recruited him versus everybody else. Not only that, but we definitely felt it was a place where Lenzelle could achieve some of his personal goals – not just as a basketball player but also as a student."

A 6-3, 215-pound guard prospect, Smith is ranked by Scout.com as a four-star prospect and the No. 16 point guard prospect in the country. In addition to his son's abilities on the court, Smith Sr. said the prospect boasts a 4.1 grade-point average and ranks within the top two percent of his high school class.

The Buckeyes did not appear on Smith's radar until the summer of 2008. While playing at the Reebok All-American camp in Philadelphia during July, Smith caught the eye of the OSU coaching staff.

What followed was a whirlwind recruitment that resulted in Smith issuing a verbal commitment months sooner than he had originally intended.

"They've been very, very persistent and consistent," his father said. "It's not a surprise that it happened so quickly. Our original plan and intent was not to commit early, so that was a surprise, but we had always said that when we found the right fit then there was no sense in waiting."

Smith was not lacking in offers from other schools, however. Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana, Miami, Fla., and others had all offered him scholarships. The father and son have taken unofficial visits to both Illinois and Florida – another school recruiting him – as well as to OSU.

Finding the fit the duo was hoping for in the Buckeyes, Smith Jr. called Matta on Sept. 22 to inform him of his decision – just four days after the head coach had been there to take in an open gym.

That was not the only phone call made on the younger Smith's behalf, however. His father took the time to speak to all the schools recruiting his son to personally let them know that his son was now off the market.

"It's as solid as it can get right now," he said of his son's commitment. "I have made every phone call to every single coach and expressed my sincere thanks for them recruiting Lenzelle and for them offering him to have the opportunity to have a chance to play at their institutions but we have told them we have decided to be a Buckeye."

A multi-talented guard, Smith is being recruited by OSU as a combo guard with the ability to drop down to small forward and play defense. Above all, the Buckeyes like the fact that Smith is a versatile player.

He now joins a recruiting class that includes two five-star athletes in Columbus Northland center Jared Sullinger and Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers forward DeShaun Thomas. Cincinnati Princeton's Sibert and three-star shooting guard Cameron Wright from Cleveland Benedictine round out the class.

Smith and Thomas are acquainted with each other, having played against each other during their prep careers. Smith has never played against Sullinger in AAU ball because, according to his father, Smith has always played one level up rather than go against players his age.

"The fact that you bring in those kind of guys, we definitely can see the vision and we both share the vision of trying to get to a national championship," Smith Sr. said.

The realization of that goal would also be cause for a celebration.


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