In college basketball, there are some teams that still prefer to rely on upperclassmen instead of freshmen. Ohio State next season will not be one of those teams. With Thad Matta bringing in a five-man class that looks like one of his most talented hauls ever, the Buckeyes will certainly be depending on their new freshmen to help replenish a lineup losing four starters, including last season’s freshmen sensation D’Angelo Russell.
This brings up the obvious question. Which one of the five highly ranked prospects will make the biggest impact right off the bat next season? Since all will likely get a shot to play and maybe even start, there’s not an easy answer. Let’s take a look at all five new players.
The potential heir apparent to Russell at point guard, Lyle will be expected to start right away. That’s a lot of pressure for an 18-year-old to handle, but the Indiana native should be up to the task. Like his predecessor, Lyle has good height (6-foot-5) and can both score and distribute. The only question is whether Matta wants to start him on or off the ball. Whatever guard spot he plays, Lyle will likely be a starter right away next season.
A 6-foot-10, 235 pound center from Virginia, Giddens will be expected to help fill a void in the post for the Buckeyes. With Amir Williams and Trey McDonald having both graduated, Ohio State needs a big man and Giddens could easily fit in right away. He’ll have to beat out sophomore transfer Trevor Thompson and redshirt freshman David Bell for a starting spot, but Giddens is a superb athlete who projects to be an impact player sooner rather than later. He needs to develop his offensive game, but he has a good chance to get plenty of minutes this season and could easily work his way into the starting lineup.
A lights-out shooter, Grandstaff could see serious minutes next season at shooting guard. At 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds, the Texas product has good height but needs to work on his build. While he’ll have to improve his all-around game, Grandstaff could be an immediate asset for Ohio State if he can light it up from the outside like he has been touted to. Sophomore Kam Williams has the inside track on the starting job and won’t give it up easily, but Grandstaff could challenge him and at the very least be used as a shooter off the bench.
At just 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, Harris is easily the smallest player on the Buckeyes. He also happens to be a natural pass-first point guard with terrific quickness and ball-handling abilities. His biggest obstacle to getting on the court likely won’t be his size, but rather how Matta designs the lineup. If the coach decides Lyle is better suited to play the two, Harris will probably start. But if Lyle does start at the point, Harris will have to settle for being his back up.
The only forward of the new recruiting class, Mitchell will have the hardest path to getting minutes next season. At 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds, Mitchell is a bit of a tweener and will have to prove he can play at either the three or the four consistently. With Jae’Sean Tate returning at small forward and Marc Loving likely taking the power forward spot, Mitchell will probably be coming off the bench at first. Still, he could get significant minutes off the bench and even start a few games if the Buckeyes wish to go big or small, depending on matchups.
Bottom line, none of these new players are in a bad position. While Lyle is the most likely to start right away, all of them should be in a position to get playing time right away.