Perhaps it's in his name, or maybe it's because of a mass exodus of talent every four to five years, but Ohio State head coach Thad Matta has a knack for building five man recruiting classes that create the fun, name-drive nickname "Thad Five."
In 2005, Matta brought a five man class that featured Greg Oden, Mike Conley, David Lighty, Daequan Cook and Othello Hunter. That class - primarily led by Oden and Conley - led the Buckeyes to national runner-up status, as they fell to the Florida Gators in the championship game. Ohio State isn't known to perennially produce one-and-done talents like Kentucky, so every four years or so, there will be a need to replace a mass exodus of players.
Matta and company have loaded up again heading into the 2015 season, and there is reason for a solid 2015 campaign albeit with a young, inexperienced squad. With the departure of Jerry West award winner D'Angelo Russell, the Buckeye faithful will be looking for a new scoring threat to invade the Big Ten. With an impressive skill set and college ready frame, Huntington Prep (WV) product JaQuan Lyle could be an instant starter at point guard for Ohio State.
A four-star recruit according to ESPN, Lyle is an intriguing point guard prospect due to his size - 6'5, 230 pounds - but could slide off the ball and utilize his scoring prowess. Lyle possesses very good ball-handling skills and the ability to breakdown defenses to get to the rim and finish through contact. With strong penetrate and dish instincts, Lyle is best suited at point guard under Thad Matta.
With a solid offensive repertoire, Lyle is also a very capable and willing passer, as he looks to get teammates involved off of his driving ability. The former Oregon commit likes to force defenders to collapse in the paint and kick it out to the open man if a scoring opportunity doesn't present itself.
Possessing an impressive stature for the lead guard position, Lyle has the strength and length to be an effective perimeter defender in the Big Ten. Lyle has a knack for getting his hands in passing lanes and coming up with steals because of his constant activity on the ball.
Areas for Improvement
Lyle can often times run into trouble by playing to out of control and forcing plays as a lead guard. With his strong body, there are many situations where Lyle tries to bully his way into the lane but comes up against opposing big men and takes an ill-advised shot. With the skilled and savvy big men in division one basketball, Lyle will need to play more under control and trust his new teammates.
His shooting mechanics are still a work in progress, as his right elbow protrudes which could cause accuracy issues. Shooting isn't a major weakness, but will need to be refined in order to fully utilize the triple threat position.
D'Angelo Russell played both guard positions, but was an excellent facilitator to go along with his ability to break down defenses with his ball-handling abilities. JaQuan Lyle is not the next D'Angelo Russell, but he does show the ability to impact a game with getting others involved if his scoring isn't there.
Lyle was a borderline 5-star prospect coming out of high school, so the talent is there. The direction of the young Buckeyes will fall on whether or not Lyle learns to trust his new teammates and plays under control. Thad Matta always finds a way to galvanize young teams, and with Lyle, he could have the Buckeyes as a team to watch out for late in the season.