When evaluating and attempting to explain the reasons for success or failure for a college basketball program, one of the first things pointed to is how well said program recruits.
Recruiting has never really been a problem for Ohio State. The Buckeyes have been able to land at least one, and often times multiple, ESPN Top 100 recruits in each of the last five seasons.
Though Ohio State surprisingly hasn’t been invited to March Madness for two consecutive seasons, the last decade has arguably been the most dominant in Buckeye basketball history.
As part of a BTPowerhouse series, I will take a look at a specific year in that decade: 2013. Precisely, if the recruiting class that season panned out.
But first, some background leading into the 2013-2014 season will be provided.
Led by Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State made it all the way to the Final 4 during the 2011-2012 season. Unfortunately for the second-seeded Buckeyes, heartbreak was what fate had in store for Thad Matta’s squad. Ohio State lost to opposing two seed Kansas by two points.
Similarly the next season, although without Sullinger, the Buckeyes made another deep tournament run. However, once again, a close defeat was at the hands of the scarlet and gray. Ohio State lost in the Elite 8 to Cinderella-esque Wichita State by four points.
Heading into the 2013-2014 season, after two straight near championship runs, the Buckeyes were without Deshaun Thomas. Luckily, since dominant forward LaQuinton Ross and the duo of Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. were returning, another March Madness run could be fairly anticipated.
Since Thomas and big-man Evan Ravenel were graduating, Ohio State had room for two incoming freshmen. And as the program is known for, it was able to land a few big name high school graduates.
Kameron Williams - Shooting Guard (No. 58 on ESPN)
Williams was a highly touted guard coming out of Mount Saint Joseph’s High School in Maryland. He was given a four star rating and 87 overall by ESPN, easily cracking the top 100 overall recruits.
The 6-foot-3-inch guard was listed as the second best player coming out of the state of Maryland in 2013. As a result, he received multiple Division I offers. Besides from Ohio State, Miami, Marquette, Syracuse, and Wake Forest all dangled scholarships in front of Williams.
The 2013-’14 Buckeyes were upset by in-state rival Dayton in the round of 64. Williams didn’t see the floor in this shocking game, and in fact didn’t see the floor at all in OSU’s 25-win season. The Maryland product chose to redshirt before the 2013-’14 season.
In his first season playing for Ohio State the following year, Williams came off the bench and rarely was a difference maker. On the season, Williams averaged 5.4 points and a single rebound per contest. However, he did play at least 20 minutes in nine contests as a redshirt freshman and scored in double figures on seven occasions.
Williams’ scoring and rebounding have improved every season since. In the 2015-’16 season Williams averaged 8.3 points and 1.8 boards per game. He saw the floor much more that season, playing an average of 21.9 minutes per game (7.6 more than the previous season). Though his scoring was a bit inconsistent, he scored 10+ in 12 games during his second season playing for OSU.
Last season, Williams averaged over 30 minutes per game and notched career highs in points, averaging 9.4, and rebounds, collecting an average of 2.1 per game. The guard also scored double-digit points in 14 contests.
Surprisingly, Williams declared for the NBA draft pretty early after his last season. But, he eventually withdrew and decided to return to Columbus for the 2017-2018 season (his last year of eligibility).
Though his career is not over yet, I would say that so far Williams has not panned out how Buckeye fans would have liked. Of course, an incredible senior campaign would change that. But, considering he was a top-notch recruit out of high-school, his accomplishments so far have been a little disappointing. Williams was expected to be an extremely consistent scorer, yet he has failed to average in double-figures in each of his three seasons in Columbus.
Williams has been good, but so far, he has not lived up to the ESPN Top 100 and No. 2 overall player out of Maryland hype. Ohio State fans should be optimistic about Williams though. As previously mentioned, he has improved in scoring and rebounding each season. In addition, he has consistently played more minutes and gathered more assists year after year. If this trend continues, the guard should average at least 10 points and three rebounds during the 2017-’18 season.
Marc Loving - Small Forward (No. 62 on ESPN)
Before the 2013-’14 season, Matta and company made a concerted effort to recruit in-state, as they dished out three offers to players from Ohio. All three of which had four star ratings and at least an 84 overall on ESPN.
Though Cincinnati native Devin Williams chose Kansas and Toledo native Nigel Hayes went to Madison, the Buckeyes were able to land one Ohio native. The player was Marc Loving: a forward who also grew up in Toledo.
Loving, extremely similar to Kam Williams, was given an 86 by ESPN and was ranked the 62nd overall recruit in the 2013 class. Loving had no other offers, although he did draw interest from in-state foe Xavier. Loving was ranked as the second best player to come out of Ohio that season, behind Devin Williams and just ahead of Hayes. Landing the Saint John’s High School graduate was definitely a huge gain for OSU.
Loving was a non-factor during his freshman 2013-’14 season. This was partly because of an experienced Buckeye core. Although, unlike Kam Williams, Loving did see the floor as a true freshman. Loving averaged 4.4 points and 1.7 rebounds in 10.9 minutes per game as a freshman. This included four double-digit scoring outings for the young forward.
Loving came back much improved for his sophomore season and was much more involved during the 2014-’15 season. Loving began the season by scoring at least 10 points in six of Ohio State’s first seven games. He also later scored in double figures in seven consecutive games. On the season, Loving scored at least 10 in 17 of his 32 games played. Loving significantly improved his averages to 9.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore.
However, some off-court trouble limited the talented sophomore’s production that season. Loving was suspended for three crucial Big Ten contests in February because of drug use. This was essentially a four game suspension as well, as Loving returned on February 14 against Michigan State only to play five minutes. Loving was a non-factor for the rest of the season after his suspension. The forward failed to record more than eight points in nine of the 10 games after returning to the Buckeye lineup.
Despite his evident distractions towards the end of his sophomore season, Loving came back with a vengeance the following year. It seems Loving used the chip on his shoulder to his advantage during the 2015-’16 season. Loving averaged 14 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a junior. Loving recorded double-digit scoring totals in 26 of the Buckeyes’ 35 games. He also scored 20+ in four of OSU’s final six games. Loving had six double-doubles during the 2015-’16 season after not recording one in the previous two seasons. He also led the Buckeyes in scoring.
Though Loving was definitely solid during his final season on Ohio State last year, he didn’t go out with the bang that Buckeye supporters would have hoped. Loving averaged 12.3 points (1.7 less than previous season) and 4.7 rebounds (0.6 less than previous season) during the 2016-’17 season. Regardless, it still was a good season for Loving, as he notched a career high in assists and still scored at least 10 in 20 games. However, it is worth noting that after improving in each of his first three seasons with OSU, Loving didn’t improve during his senior season. Overall, the forward had a very solid collegiate career. It would have been ideal to see him continue to improve as a senior. But, considering he still was OSU’s second leading scorer last season, it’s safe to say he pretty much panned out.