Ohio State head coach Thad Matta knows that the play of his backcourt will go a long way towards determining the team's success this season. Entering his 11th year at the helm for the Buckeyes, Matta is prepared to hand the keys to the team to Shannon Scott, who's up and down career in Columbus has reached its final year. "I want Shannon to run this basketball team. I want Shannon to play with no fear. I want Shannon to play consistently," Matta said at Ohio State's media day.
Scott will play the role of veteran leader among Ohio State's guards, as he will be joined by a pair of youngsters entering their first seasons of college ball. "I was in that position three years ago, not always sure what was going on, and I was always able to look up to older guys and ask them what I should be doing," Scott said at media day. "I now strive to be that role model for them on and off the court."
We begin our positional preview of the Buckeyes with a look at the backcourt, where expectations are high as experience is blended with youth.
Matta is expected to start Scott next to a true freshman at the guard position this season, and how quickly the former can help get the latter acclimated to the college game will play a big role in Ohio State's performance in the non-conference portion of its schedule. The pair will be replacing the highly-decorated Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. and their 20 points per game and immeasurable leadership.
Shannon Scott - We have written extensively about Scott since the end of last season here at BT Powerhouse, and all that ink (pixels?) tells us that the senior point guard is immensely important to this team. Scott is a former McDonald's All-American, and his time at Ohio State has been plagued by inconsistency. The talent and athleticism are apparent, but for the Buckeyes to go anywhere this year, the Alpharetta, Georgia native will need to put things together with consistency. As a junior, Scott averaged 7.5 points, 3.4 assists, and 2 steals per game, and was named to the All-Big Ten Defensive Team for the second straight season. No longer sharing time at the point with Craft, Scott will be the orchestrator on both sides of the ball, and must increase his production.
D'Angelo Russell - Russell is another player that we have chronicled extensively. The 6'5" Florida product was a composite five-star recruit, and is seen by some as the best pure scorer in his class nationally. Russell, who will wear number 0 for the Buckeyes, is a talented ball-handler who can create his own shot off the dribble, slashing to the basket or pulling up from the midrange. He is also a knockdown shooter from beyond the arc, and a skilled and willing passer. Though he will not turn 19 years old until February, the freshman is facing big expectations as the cure for the scoring woes Ohio State has dealt with the past couple of seasons.
The Buckeyes roster is full of versatile, athletic players, but only three guards total. Given Matta's penchant for keeping his rotation short, there is a good chance that some three-guard sets will be utilized and for a few wing players to see time in the backcourt.
Kam Williams - Williams has also been mentioned this preseason here at BT Powerhouse. After redshirting a season ago, the Baltimore native is primed to see major minutes off the bench. A freakish athlete and solid perimeter shooter, Williams was drawing raves at this time last season before being sidelined by mono. He is capable of playing both guard positions, and will be easily interchangeable when Scott and Russell go to the bench. If he is able to display consistency is in his offensive production and defensive effort, Williams could well be getting close to equal playing time in the backcourt with his teammates by the time the conference schedule kicks off in late December.
Overall Grade: B
Scott has been around the Big Ten block, and is primed for a big senior season as he finally takes the reins of the team from Craft. Russell and Williams are talented, athletic, and possess enormous potential, but until they show it on the floor, I can't grade the backcourt any better than a B. If the two freshman perform as many expect, and if Scott can consistently drive this team, the Buckeye guards could be earning an A by the end of the season.