Every week, the BTPowerhouse Friday Power Bar will detail what’s going on across the league on the recruiting trail.
While Ohio State parting ways with Thad Matta dominated the headlines, and for good reason, there were plenty of developments on the Big Ten recruiting front this week. The battle for the 2018 class is undoubtedly in full swing.
Let’s take a look at this week’s recruiting headlines.
-The Recruiting Impact of Thad Matta’s Exit.
Ohio State set the college basketball world ablaze on Monday, firing long time, high-profile coach Thad Matta. The university had several reasons for parting ways with Matta, including a recent run of unsuccessful seasons contributing to a departure from national prominence. The coach also had debilitating back issues. More than anything, though, Ohio State lost their recruiting foothold.
“Once Thad and I sat down we had a good plan going into the summer,” AD Gene Smith said. “Recruiting is a major part of that plan. We weren't winning the battles in recruiting that I thought we might have a chance to win, as he did.”
As Matta leaves Columbus, the Buckeyes’ ability to bring in talent continues to circle the drain.
Before the notion of a Matta termination, Ohio State had already taken a big hit this offseason on the recruiting trail. Darius Bazley, a four-star forward out of Cincinnati, OH, had been committed to the Buckeyes since last summer.
Following Ohio State’s poor season in 2016-17, however, Bazley no longer saw himself fitting into the picture. While recruits normally take a more diplomatic approach, Bazley had no qualms expressing his concerns:
“Ohio State, they didn’t make the NCAA tournament this year,” Bazley told USA Today. “They didn’t even make the NIT, which is unfortunate, but I looked into the recruits they have coming into next year, they didn’t look too good for the future.”
Just one day after dropping Matta, three-star Justin Ahrens also decommitted from the program. Ahrens, who initially committed with Bazley during the same unofficial visit, cited Thad Matta’s departure as cause for reopening his recruitment. The 6-foot-5 forward marks yet another Ohio recruit the Buckeyes failed to nail down.
The next Ohio domino to fall appears to be four-star forward Pete Nance. Nance listed his final three schools as Northwestern, Ohio State, and Michigan. With Matta gone, as well as the overwhelmingly downward trend of the program, it seems to be only a matter of time before he cuts the Buckeyes loose.
-Former Illinois Commit Javon Pickett Chooses Missouri.
Javon Pickett once again followed the lead of fellow Illinois decommit Jeremiah Tilmon. On Saturday, the three-star guard announced his decision to play for the Missouri Tigers. Instead of joining as a member of the 2017 class, Pickett will instead reclassify to 2018. The decision likely comes from a desire to avoid the loaded log jam of Michael Porter Jr., Jontay Porter (pending reclassification), and Blake Harris, in addition to Tilmon.
Pickett first expressed an intent to stay after John Groce’s termination, however his mind was changed before the week ended. Even after his request for release, the guard left the Fighting Illini with a sliver of hope. “During this period I would like to stress that all options remain open to include the University of Illinois,” Pickett posted on twitter.
Alas, Pickett is officially a Tiger. He and Tilmon will forever be relegated to the Illinois Pantheon of what if.
-Jalen Smith Sets Date for Official Visit to Maryland.
In addition to Maryland, Smith has a slew of offers, including Villanova, Virginia, Florida, and Syracuse, among others. According to 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions, the Terrapins currently have the edge.
Last year Smith really turned heads with his electric play, averaging 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. The junior dominated, capping the season off with the Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year.
The Terps have played the long game with Smith, first offering him back in October of 2015. Now a top 25 player in the 2018 class, the attention appears to have paid off.
Check back next week for more Big Ten recruiting headlines.