The Little Things

By Chris Lauderback on November 12, 2012 at 9:23p

Most who more than casually follow the basketball Buckeyes understand that this year, despite a lofty #4 preseason slot in the AP poll, will be one that requires gradual growth for the team to justify such a ranking come March.

Losing Sullinger and Buford means the known commodities from a season ago such as Craft, Thomas and Smith must take on increased responsibility – but that will most likely be the easy part.

Amir is 30 lbs stronger but his hands still need work

It’s the growth needed from the less proven guys that will come with a longer, more frustrating learning curve and whether or not players like LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams truly expand their games enough will be just as big a factor as how many points Deshaun can score when the Buckeyes run into upper echelon teams.

Duke and Kansas come calling in the non-con while the B1G itself will again feature a handful of elite teams and a top to bottom that will make winning on the road an incredibly tough task.

So, while the Buckeyes likely won’t cruise through the schedule in the same way we’ve seen the last couple years, what’s most important is if those in the back half of the eight-man rotation can mature and expand into their respective roles and if, collectively, the group will show the necessary commitment to details and defense.

Through the first two games (one exhibition), a lack of focus on those two items has been apparent. Game one against Walsh saw the Buckeyes give up 71 points as they surrendered 8/16 from distance and fought to a disappointing 33-33 draw on the boards.

In the official home opener this past Sunday against Albany, the Buckeyes trailed, 23-22, with about five minutes left in the 1st half thanks to repetitive lapses at the defensive end and numerous breakdowns in the “little things”.


Slam I Am has picked up where he left off on D

At intermission, the Buckeyes had been outrebounded, 17-14, and at the final horn, they had committed 20 fouls leading to 30 free throw opportunities, two things you rarely see from a Thad Matta-coached team.

Matta actually said he was okay with the defensive effort put forth Sunday but I’m not buying it. Against a team like Albany, he shouldn’t have to call and timeout and loudly implore his squad to put forth supreme effort on defense.

Looking at some of the individual players attempting an adjustment to increased responsibility, and assuming Deshaun, Craft and Smith all take the necessary steps forward, Sam Thompson has been most impressive lesser known commodity.

No question the sample size is small but Thompson has shown a fierce commitment to details and defense, looking like a poor man’s David Lighty in the process.

He has displayed a knack for being a solid on-ball defender, versatility in being able to match up with any perimeter position, he actually talks at the defensive end and he’s again showing what he can do as a help-side defender. Through two games, he has seven blocks and three steals. I’m still not sure he can be a consistent scorer (15 pts, 7/13 combined so far) but if he can play within himself at that end and be a factor at the other, he’ll see significant minutes all year for a Thad Matta-coached team.

Meanwhile, his competition at the baseline wing, Ross, has shown he can score and even grab a few rebounds but his attention to detail and a consistent focus on defense still need developed.

Offensively, he’s scored 23 points in 44 minutes on a serviceable 8/17 from the floor and gives the team another guy that teams must respect from distance, affording his teammates a little more room off the bounce.

Q can score, it's his defense that needs to evolve

But when it comes to details like running tightly off screens and understanding the nuances of being a solid defensive player, he’s a work in progress.

He rarely talks on defense and at this stage he’s more of a thinker just trying not to make a mistake than a natural defender meshing seamlessly with his teammates. That part of his game will likely improve but aside from his ability to rebound, watching him grow in the other facets of defense may be a little frustrating to watch especially when the competition ratchets up.

The other guy Thad really needs to realize an accelerated growth curve is Amir Williams. Late last year, he showed flashes of being a weapon in the middle of the defense and he did have five swats and five boards in 14 minutes against Walsh, but he had just two boards and zero blocks against Albany.

Beyond the stats, Williams should definitely benefit from the 30 extra bills he put on in the offseason when it comes time to bang on the block in the B1G, but his hands and basketball IQ can be frustrating at times.

Against Walsh, even with the five blocks, he flat out failed to make any adjustment to the fact he was guarding a left hander, often leading to easy buckets and he did the same thing trying to stop Mike Black off the dribble drive last Sunday. Additionally, his hands combined with a lack of readiness have cost him no less than five or six rebounds in 30 minutes. 

Again, it’s still very early in Amir’s career but these are things he must gradually improve upon if he’s going to fill the role necessary for Ohio State to thrive.

So, even though it's going to be painful here and there, if these two can make the big leap from garbage time players to solid contributors and the rest of the more tested guys like Ravenel, Thompson and Scott can complement this year's version of the Big Three, there's no reason this team won't be a factor in March. 

Just prepare yourself for what will be a more turbulent ride as Thad and his coaching staff face their toughest challenge in years. No question they have talent to work with but considering how much more is being asked of virtually all of the guys stacked 1-8, the coaches will have their hands full and their patience, as well as yours, figures to be tested early and often. 


Comments Show All Comments

ODEEZ330's picture

Great article totally agree. I have faith in thad

stark county football

Buckeye in Illini country's picture

I fear Amir will never step up like he should.  He just seems so clueless, just like last year.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

thatlillefty's picture

Amir and LQ both seem lost right now. But the season is going (infantile), and I have faith in this coaching staff... Should be a fun season.

Chris Lauderback's picture

I think Ross has looked lost on D at times but I'm not disappointed with what he's done offensively thus far. I did expect more from Amir though. 

As you imply, I think we just need to keep telling ourselves it's early and trust the coaches. I mean, Ross played exactly 35 minutes last year. He's already played 44 minutes this year if you count the exhibition game. Amir played almost 200 minutes (WB played 1300 by comparision) but averaged just 6.6 a game. 


Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Did Ross put on some muscle? He looks bigger than I remember.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

LexingtonBuckeye's picture

We need amir and LQ to put in some work doing some soccer style footwork drills that emphasize shuffling, staying balanced and quickness. Having grown up playing both sports, there are myriad parrallels to soccer and basketball when it comes to spacing, angles, passing, and freedom to create. I think that might help our guys out to cross train a little bit (probably an offseason thing, not in season for obvious reasons).

snoodogg22's picture

Amir is so stiff. He needs to relax and just go play like he's done his whole life!

Tough times never last, tough people do

TLB's picture

Pretty simple, really.  Going to need consistent outside shooting to challenge for any titles.


Amir may be the next Lauderdale, never a real threat but a solid shot blocker. He needs the expereince to really get a feel, who knows when or if he will breakout. Hopefully for this years teams sake, its soon!

Pay It Forward!

bhartman13's picture

Stone hands are tough to fix which could present a major problem for Amir moving forward.  It's still very early in his college career so hopefully he gets better as the year goes on and things slow down for him.  I have a feeling some of the young guys like Amir and Ross will feel the pressure to step up at times and because of that some mistakes will be made.  As long as Craft and Deshaun can be strong leaders the rest of the group will follow and get better as the season progresses.

German Buckeye's picture

Agree.  Remember, these "kids" have been playing sports and assumptively basketball, for years.  If you can't catch or anticipate a balls bounce by the collegiate level, then you probably never will.  No amount of coaching will erase that lack of hand/eye coordination. It's like baseball, if you have to "coach" a kid to be able to throw a ball correctly, he may develop into a serviceable ball player, but the elite players (and OSU sports teams are defintely elite level) can early on, just pick up a ball and wing it - the mechanics are God given and self evident.