Hoops Class of '12: What Happened to the Stars?

By David Sokol on May 15, 2012 at 4:00p
Where my five-stars at?A strange recruiting year in 2012

I often get questions about basketball recruiting and the most common one recently has been, "Did the coaching staff actually try to recruit for the 2012 class?"

Since taking over at Ohio State, Thad Matta has been an excellent recruiter, pulling in national prospects and shelling out NBA draft picks like it's his job. Well in reality, it is his job.

In this day and age, the best teams in the country land the top recruits, let them play for a year or two, and hope that using scholarships on these upper-echelon recruits leads to championships (i.e. Kentucky since Calipari took over). For  Matta, it has been hit or miss once the prospects are signed and suited up in Scarlet and Gray. But, he keeps pressing on.

With the 2012 class, there seemed to be plenty of targets, but a lot of misses with commitments.

Many factors weigh into each class and those factors differ from year to year. 

In 2006, Matta used scholarships on the "Thad-5" which included three one-and-done, five-star first round picks in Greg Oden (#1 overall), Mike Conley (#4), and Daequan Cook (#21) and a loss in the National Championship. In 2007, Matta hauled in another Five-Star in Kosta Koufos (#23 in '08 draft) and in 2008, Thad brought in Byron (BJ) Mullens who left after one year and went 24th overall (also locked down Five-Star Will Buford). 

Koufos and Mullens did not bring the same success as the "Thad-5" and showed the casualties involved when bringing in an NBA-ready recruit.

2009 was an entirely different story and the Buckeyes were without one freshman going into the season. Luckily, the Buckeyes were lead by the National Player of the Year in Evan Turner and did not have to worry much about the holes left by those early departures from the previous classes.

2010 gave us five-star Jared Sullinger who will be leaving after a second season (and Deshaun Thomas) and 2011 was filled with future contributors, but clearly no "one-and-done" style players. At least we aren't so sure at this point, with the entire class going into their sophomore year for next years campaign. The staff had a lot of freedom with the '11 class with plenty of open scholarships to fill and relationships built early on.

It is now common knowledge that Matta and the OSU basketball program is at the top for desirability for top prospects across the country. The Buckeyes will continue to see interest from national caliber players that often are tagged as "one-and-dones" because Matta has shown that he can help get a player to the next level. He has the track record and the experience.

However, why is the 2012 class not filled with five-stars or even four-stars? OSU Basketball fans seems to be wondering if the Buckeyes even attempted to fill a class this year. There was much uncertainty about scholarship numbers, who to target, and who to offer scholarships to that made the recruiting year way more difficult than in the past. 

In a perfect world, Matta would have known that he would have four open scholarship spots to work with in 2012 and much like with the 2011 class, he could've openly offered a plethora of talent and taken a handful of commitments. He would have known that Jared Sullinger was heading to the pros, Deshaun Thomas would return to school, and Jordan Sibert and JD Weatherspoon would transfer.

Unfortunately, there was no way for the staff to predict the eventual outcome and the potential open roster spots and the recruiting season seemed to be more difficult then in the past.

The Buckeyes had offers out to a handful of prospects with some heavily interested in OSU, but at a point had to be extremely picky who to accept commitments from with the unknown scholarship availability. The staff's focus on adding a big man made this recruiting season a unique one.

Let's take a look at a few of those top prospects OSU could've had in the class of 2012.

Tony Parker | 6-9/260 | FIVE STAR1


Tony Parker, perhaps the staff's #1 target and an instant replacement for Jared Sullinger, visited Ohio State and attended a football game at the 'Shoe. He came away impressed. He stated that he had a great relationship with coach Jeff Boals and that Ohio State was in a good position for his services. He appreciated that Matta had churned out a lengthy list of successful big men starting with David West (back at Xavier), Greg Oden, and Sullinger.

He mentioned that he spoke with Boals about five times per month and told Rivals:

"Ohio State is a great school, it has a great atmosphere. They have a really have a great basketball program. It is really a win-win situation"

As time went on, more and more schools became interested in Parker's services and he managed to create a short-list of UCLA, Ohio State, Duke, Georgia, and Kansas. Soon after, it seemed that OSU was all but out of the running. Things did not turn out well for the Buckeyes as Los Angeles sold Parker and chose UCLA during the longest press conference in decision history.

Jeremy Hollowell | 6-7/180 | FOUR STAR2


Despite being from Indianapolis, Jeremy Hollowell grew up a Buckeye fan and dreamed of playing his college basketball in Columbus. Ohio State offered Hollowell early on, but seemed to spend their time pursuing other options, as opposed to staying in-touch with Hollowell. He got the message after not hearing from Buckeye coaches and began pursuing other options.

The draw to stay in-state was too powerful and Hollowell made a decision to stay closer to home. Looking back, especially with open scholarships, OSU could have used Hollowell to add depth at the wings.



Another one of Thad's top big man prospects, Adam Woodbury, received a lot of attention from the OSU staff. During the winter, Woodbury mentioned that he was considering Ohio State and Wisconsin before receiving a big offer from North Carolina.

As time progressed, Fran McCaffery entered the picture and staying at home became more and more appealing for Woodbury. Coach Matta was also focusing a large portion of his recruiting attention to Tony Parker, who seemed to be an OSU lock at the time.

Eventually, Woodbury pulled the trigger and will be the focal point of the Iowa program for the foreseeable future.



DaJuan Coleman may have been a long shot from the start, but never failed to mention Ohio State in his shortlist of schools.

Even Jared Sullinger was involved in the recruitment of Coleman, as Sullinger attempted to get Coleman to commit to the Buckeyes potentially filling in for him after he took his talents to the pros.

Coleman spoke with Adam Zagoria late last summer about his recruitment and even mentioned that OSU was on level playing ground as Syracuse (the favorite):

"They’re definitely equal now that I did a little more research and stuff like that. Ohio State, I like how they use their big man and develop big men so that’s one thing about them.”

In the end, there was too much pressure to stay close to home and support the local Orange.

Let's look at the low-interest prospects from this class.

Rodney Purvis | 6-4/190 | Five Star3

COMMITTED TO: North Carolina State

When Rodney Purvis decommited from Louisville, most coaches in the country reached out to him to see if they could garner his interest.

Surprisingly, Purvis listed Ohio State on his new short list with NC State and Memphis and it seemed like the Buckeyes had a legitimate shot at the star guard. In the end, just like most of the Buckeye targets, staying close to home was the deciding factor:

"I came to the conclusion that there is no place like home."

 Purvis will join a star studded class boosting NC State back onto the national scene.

Danuel House | 6-6/200 | FOUR STAR2


House, very similar Will Buford (size/shooting ability), was told that he could easily replace Buford and gel well into the team's current mold.Thad has a knack for national recruiting, especially in years where Ohio doesn't have a plethora of talent. Danuel House was a major shooting guard prospect out of Sugar Land, TX and had major interest in Ohio State. House even created a short list with the Buckeyes up high.

Once again, geography was costly for the Buckeyes and House decided to stay in-state.

Other notables not included: Pennsylvania PF Amile Jefferson1 (Five-Star, commited to Duke), Georgia SF Evan Nolte1 (Four-Star, committed to Virginia), Ohio PF Kenny Kaminski2 (Four-Star, committed to MSU), Florida C Joel James2 (Four-Star, committed to UNC), Nevada SG Amedeo Della Valle (Three-star, committed to Ohio State)


Yet again, the Buckeyes had the interest of several top prospects in the nation. It seemed that the geographical factor really weighed in heavily with this class and the uncertainty about scholarship numbers really had the coaching staff playing it safe..Or were they? Could this all be in the plan? It seems that the staff missed out on their top big man targets and decided not to use any effort towards other positions (except for the late commitment of Della Valle).

Perhaps the staff is happy with next year's team and wants to focus on transfers and the '13 class. That seems to be the conclusion. 

It can be expected that the coaching staff puts a lot of weight into recruiting for 2013 and we will once again see a loaded class.


  • 1 High mutual interest between Ohio State and the prospect.
  • 2 Interest from one party (i.e. prospect interested in OSU, but OSU not interested in prospect).
  • 3 No official offer but staff would have accepted a commitment.

Comments Show All Comments

buckeyes411's picture

I really wish we took Hollowell. Kid seems like he would have been a Buckeyes. We do have good depth at the wing especially with Loving coming in in '13 but 3 open spots! What are we going to do with them?

thatlillefty's picture

I'm a lil disappointed we didn't fill out the entire class but at the point, I have faith in the coaching staff.

Poison nuts's picture

There could be more recruits coming in & all but I'm feeling real good about next year...We'll see.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

BuckeyeTrappedInSouth's picture

I kinda get the impression that Matta may have a silent verbal from a big name or two for next years class!  Wouldn't that be awesome?!

In Urban We Trust

baddogmaine's picture

The idea that Matta had no idea whether he had open spots or not seems too kind to the coach. He knew 100% that he needed to replace Buford. He knew Sullinger was likely to leave, and he had to know that Weatherspoon and Sibert were unhappy. And he had to consider a possibility that Thomas might be going. Matta could not have known that he would have four spots, but he should have been able to look at Weatherspoon/ Sibert/ Sullinger/ Thomas and plan on getting one opening out of that group. That was two spots he could have safely recruited without oversigning.
There is really only one reason to not try to fill spots that are open - a belief that no one in the graduating high school class fills a need and it will be better to bank openings for next year when the pickings will be better. Even a belief that your present roster is strong does not justify leaving room on the bench that could be used to give freshmen an extra year of coaching.
I continue to believe that Matta has done a great job of attracting the four and five stars, but his record on getting the role players is much weaker. Going only six or seven deep is almost never a coaching philosophy, it is almost always born of necessity, and for too many years Matta has played without a bench. It's arguable that sustained success has come more from new one-and-dones that contribute immediately than from recruiting potential and developing it. Of course Matta does develop players - Diebler did not arrive on campus as one of the best outside shooters in college basketball history; Turner was not an obvious POY; Smith contributed a huge amount last year after an unimpressive first year. But has Smith developed as an offensive player? Still time to see but I for one think Matta could have done even more with Smith last year than he did.
With only one new player coming in and that one not a known quantity; and with two starting spots needing to be replaced we will see as rarely before just how good Matta's role players really are, and how well he develops them.

nltemple's picture

It appears to this reader that 2012 Buckeye roundballers will have a tough time without some real strong help inside. How good Amir Williams is an unknown and we can only hope Evan Ravenal gets a lot better over the summer. If not we will get killed inside and with some suspect shooting outside we may be in for a long season of hoops in Buckeye Land.

Noel Temple

David Sokol's picture

Although I do not see the same success as this past season, I can safely say that last year's bench or "role" players will step up.

I love speculating and I can easily see someone like Lenzelle Smith boost his scoring (potentially over 10 ppg) and a guy like Sam Thompson filling the Smith role of last year (defensive stopper, scores when needed). Amir won't have anything close to Sully stats, but he adds a dimension to the defense we haven't had since Oden. He will stand in the paint and alter every close range shot.

If this coming season is considered a "rebuilding year", I think we'll all take being a preseason top 10 squad. The team is so young and can only get better especially if Matta locks down a stellar '13.

OldColumbusTown's picture

With Amir and the returning players who will see even more time this year (Thompson, Smith, Scott), this will be the #1 efficient defense in the country, guaranteed.  Anything can happen, of course, but this team is built to stop teams from scoring.
Of the top 8, who I expect to all see significant time this season, 6 specialize on the defensive side of the floor (Craft, Smith, Thompson, Williams, Ravenal, Scott) and one other has vastly improved already (Thomas).  I expect with 2/3 of a season of practice and a full summer under his belt, Ross will improve as well if he wants PT this year.  Delle Valle will probably be the weakest defender, but I don't see him playing much other than to serve as an occasional 3-point threat on offense.
You have great on-ball guard defenders, long and athletic swingmen, a bulldog in the post, and a seemingly elite shot-blocker.  They may have trouble scoring, but their opponents will have even more trouble, and methinks this team will find a lot of easy points in transition off turnovers/blocks.

RedStorm45's picture

This is what I said back in April.  Williams, Ravs, Thompson, Smith, Craft...don't see a team shooting better than 35% against that unit.  Granted, we actually have to score at some point, but I think Thomas will be a 20 ppg scorer and Lenzelle showed late that he can get to double digits.  The key is Williams.  If he isn't somewhat of a threat, the spacing will be awful.  He's got to chip in 8-10 a game in order to keep the defense honest.

OldColumbusTown's picture

I'm fine with the "lack of recruiting" in this year's class (for lack of a better term) for one main reason.  This past year's OSU team had the most depth top to bottom, in overall talent, than what we have seen before under Matta.  The two leading scorers are gone, yes, and two of the weaker (in talent and production) bench guys are gone as well.  But for once, Matta has enough talent on his bench to still claim some continuity for next year, even with all these losses.
Realistically, other than Tony Parker or another low-post banger who could play something of a role similar to Sullinger, it was going to be pretty difficult for any recruit to come in and expect immediate playing time with this group.  Nowadays, the top recruits pick a place where they don't have to compete for playing time just as much as picking the "program."  When they have the best of both worlds (immediate playing time at their position for a blue blood program - i.e. Kentucky every year lately), it's basically a done deal as to which school they will select.
Matta did not reel in much this year, and may not bring in too much next year as well since the exodus should be light (Ravenal and Deshaun).  But in the 2014 class, I think we will again see a top recruiting cycle because so many prime spots will be open for incoming recruits.  There is a reason why Jaquan Lyle has OSU right at the top of his list... Craft will have graduated and Shannon Scott has not yet shown he will necessarily be "the man" at the point.

baddogmaine's picture

I don't disagree that this past year's team had more depth than Matta usual if depth is seeing floor time at all; but there was almost no one who was put in expecting that he do anything more than not lose the game. At its best Matta depth contributed too little.
The idea that someone needs to contribute right away is the wrong way of looking at recruiting. The right way is that players will be ready to contribute by March. But in fact with two starting spots up for grabs and with no one from this past year clearly the heirs apparent a solid if not spectacular freshman might have a good chance to start - to serve the Smith role in playing defense and letting others take the offensive spotlight.
The time to start grooming Craft's replacement is now. Writing off this year and next year's recruiting classes is essentially saying that unless OSU gets a 5-star point guard for 2014 - which no team, not even KY, can count on - we will have no one ready to lead us against the top competition. We may land that guard - but planning a future on it is not great recruiting.

OldColumbusTown's picture

Not to say I, or they, are "planning" on a 5-star recruit.  However, in this day and age of recruiting, more freshmen are coming in to college and contributing major minutes/producing big numbers like a star from the get-go.  The top level recruits very rarely have put up "bust" type seasons in recent years.
Ohio State has become one of the top-level destinations for basketball recruits year in and year out.  I put them in the category with Texas, Florida, UCLA (once again), Arizona (also rising again), and others who have really become an elite program in the eyes of top recruits over the last 5-10 years.  You look at top recruits and their final list of schools, and you will see all the major programs along with these schools.  OSU will get their share in due time.
Again, alot of recruiting now depends on extenuating circumstances, most notably immediate playing time.  Prospects want it, and don't want competition as much any more.  Every recruit OSU went after, save for the PF spot, was going to have a battle for playing time this coming season.  Maybe if Thompson/Smith/Ross don't produce this year, we may see another wing jump on board in the '13 class.
All I'm saying is I won't be surprised if '13 is another light year in recruiting.  I will become more concerned if that is the case, but not to the point where it scares me.  All this, mainly, because of the cycle recruiting has become.

The Real JZ's picture

solid article dave, keep the hoops news coming

"Because I couldn't go for three."