It’s official — star junior forward Keita Bates-Diop will forgo his senior season at Ohio State and declare for the NBA Draft. The 2017-18 Big Ten Player of the Year announced his decision during a press conference on Monday.
“It was going to be the hardest decision I ever made just because I love this place,” Bates-Diop said during Monday’s press conference. “I’ve been here for four years. The memories I’ve made here, I had to weigh that versus my future. I think it was the best decision for me.”
For a second straight year the Big Ten Player of the Year will leave school early to pursue a career in the NBA, and for a second straight year this move should come as no surprise. Bates-Diop was hands down the best player in the Big Ten this season, leading the league in scoring with 19.8 points per game and pulling down 8.7 rebounds per game, which ranked third in the conference.
Bates-Diop’s strong play helped lead the Buckeyes to a 15-3 conference record and back to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed in head coach Chris Holtmann’s first year in Columbus. It’s fair to say Ohio State wouldn’t have had this surprisingly incredible season without Bates-Diop’s emergence as a dominant player.
“The last couple of years have been down for Ohio State basketball and to do what we did and what I did individually this year and to kind of leave on that note is a bittersweet feeling but it’s probably the best way to go,” said Bates-Diop, who also declared he’ll be hiring an agent and eliminate any chance of a return to Ohio State for his senior season.
Bates-Diop played in 109 career games as a Buckeye, starting 70 of those contests. He was primarily used in a reserve role during his freshman season in 2014-15, but the following season he started all 33 games and averaged 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds. However, in 2016-17 he suffered a setback when a leg injury forced him to take a medical redshirt.
With the injury bug already biting Bates-Diop in the past, it makes total sense for him to leave Columbus one year early and enter the NBA Draft. It also makes sense when you look at where he could possibly go.
Bates-Diop is considered a fringe first rounder with most mock drafts having him go somewhere in the second round. However, there’s potential for him to go earlier on, with ESPN projecting the Atlanta Hawks taking him as the 25th overall pick in the first round. Either way, it would have been tough for Bates-Diop to top what he did this past season so it makes sense for him to leave now.
So what does the departure of Bates-Diop mean for the Buckeyes? Well, it certainly won’t help Ohio State to lose a player that nearly scored 20 points and snagged 10 rebounds per game, but there will be others who will be able to step up in his absence.
Kyle Young will most likely fill Bates-Diop’s role as the Buckeyes’ starting power forward next year. The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore appeared in 25 games this year, averaging 1.8 points and 1.6 rebounds across 8.6 minutes per game. Those numbers don’t compare in the slightest to what Bates-Diop did this past season, but Young has similar size and is considered possibly more athletic than Bates-Diop so the potential is there for him.
Another player to keep in mind is incoming freshman 6-foot-7 forward Jaedon LeDee, who is one of the Buckeyes top recruits. Also, don’t rule out the possibility of the Buckeyes adding a graduate transfer to help fill the void left by Bates-Diop’s departure. I’m confident Ohio State will have some answers at the power forward position — just expect it to be by committee instead of having one superstar that does most of the heavy lifting.
Losing Bates-Diop and seniors Jae’Sean Tate and Kam Williams will certainly hurt the Buckeyes next year. Those are three guys who were all very productive this past season, but there are other pieces still left, and Ohio State should still be relevant in the league. It’s disappointing to say goodbye to Bates-Diop — even if that’s what we all expected — but there’s still a lot of positives surrounding this program and a bright future ahead.