Matta Looks to Continue Long Run of Landing Elite Ohio Talent

By Jordan Wagner on August 8, 2013 at 7:00p

Thad Matta has done well locking down the state of Ohio in recruiting. While some have got away, like Columbus native and All-American for Michigan, Trey Burke, there is not much to debate regarding Matta's ability to land Ohio's top prospects. 

Dual-sport athlete will be hard to landLuke Kennard has offers from Ohio State, Kentucky and UNC

Ohio State does not necessarily rely on Ohio for their talent. The basketball talent in Ohio has been up and down, sometimes producing no Ohio State caliber prospects. Aaron Craft, Alex Rogers (former walk-on) and Marc Loving will be the only three scholarship players from the Buckeye State for the upcoming 2013-2014 season. 

When Ohio has produced elite talent, Thad Matta has been successful landing it. Jared Sullinger, Byron Mullens, Kosta Koufos, Marc Loving, Jae'Sean Tate and Aaron Craft are just a few of the in-state prospects Thad has landed during his time here at Ohio State. With some of the nation's elite talent hailing from Ohio in the upcoming classes, in-state recruiting will be more important than ever.  

Here are four of the nation's elite underclassmen who play ball in Ohio: 


Luke Kennard - 2015 // Guard // Franklin (Ohio)

Luke Kennard is a household name in basketball recruiting circles, but should college football recruiting experts take notice as well? The multi-sport athlete stars on the gridiron in the fall and the basketball court the rest of the year. Louisville has offered Kennard the opportunity to play quarterback, while Ohio State, Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan, Indiana, Notre Dame, Louisville and others have offered a full basketball scholarship. The 6-foot-5 guard/quarterback has the ideal size for both positions in college. No decision has been made on which route he will take in college, and he could possibly play both sports at the college level. 

Ohio State has ground to make up for Kennard. Losing out on one of the top in-state prospects would be a blow for the Buckeyes. It's not every day that a five-star basketball prospect hails from Ohio, making it even more important to land Kennard. As one of the nation's top shooters, Kennard would be able to step in and compete for a starting spot right away, despite some concerns whether or not he has elite athleticism. If he decides to go the basketball route, Kentucky looks like the team to beat for his services. An offer from Urban Meyer would make things interesting, but there hasn't been too much buzz on that front. 

Carlton Bragg - 2015 // Forward // Villa Angela St Joseph (OHIO)

Thad Matta's top targetBragg is the complete package. 

Carlton Bragg is undoubtedly one of the top prospects in the 2015 class. The five-star power forward has the ability to step out and shoot the three and the ability to finish in the post. The 6-foot-8, 180-pound forward is an ultra-athletic, versatile athlete. He doesn't have the weight for the four position yet, but he still has plenty of time to hit the weights before he heads to college. 

Bragg has drawn rave reviews this summer and his stock has skyrocketed. Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State and Illinois are some of the schools that have offered early on, while Duke and Kentucky have been closely monitoring Bragg this summer. Ohio State lost Bragg's main recruiter when Chris Jent returned to the NBA, but the Buckeyes remain in the mix for the top ten overall prospect. Kentucky will be a threat if they decide to offer, which it appears is very possible. 

The Buckeyes have room to take at least four or five recruits in the 2015 class with Bragg and Kennard heading their list. Losing both prospects to Kentucky would really ramp up the pressure on Matta to land top prospects from other states. Ohio State has recruited well out-of-state, however, that was mostly due to the lack of in-state talent. If the Buckeyes want to be considered amongst the nation's elite basketball schools, we must be able to keep our elite talent in-state. 

V.J. King - 2016 // Forward // St. Vincent St. Mary's (OHIO) 

King is not focusing on recruiting since he hasn't even started his sophomore year yet. Ohio State was one of the first schools to contact the five-star prospect. Dante Booker Jr. and Parris Campbell have been in his ear about the Buckeyes, I'm sure. Expect the Buckeyes to be major players in his recruitment.Yet another five-star from Ohio, V.J. King could have the most potential of them all. The rising sophomore already holds offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Illinois, N.C. State, Georgetown, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and others. 

On the hardwood, King is smooth, a good shooter and lets the game come to him. He needs to continue to work on staying focused and being engaged for the entire game. As a freshman, he tended to disappear during stretches which is typical for a young prospect and not something anyone should be too concerned with.

The sky is the limit for King. It will be interesting to see if he can reach his potential. 

Willie Jackson - 2016 // Forward // Garfield Heights (OHIO)

Willie Jackson might be a name that Buckeye fans aren't too familiar with yet, but that should change going forward. Jackson plays on the same high school team as Ohio State 2014 commitment Dave Bell, so it is safe to assume the staff is well aware of him. Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin are schools that were impressed enough to extend an early offer. Michigan State and Ohio State are two schools that have been in contact.  

The Cleveland product is not as highly rated as the other three names that were discussed, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is Ohio State caliber. There is a chance that he will not earn an offer, but I feel that he has the tools to be a David Lighty type of player for the Buckeyes. 

Willie Jackson is a plus defender with the ability to slash to the hoop. His jump shot needs to improve, but he has plenty of time to work on it. His film shows a lot of him working well in the paint, so there is a possibility that he could grow into the four position. 

These prospects are only going to be sophomores or juniors, but Thad Matta is already going toe to toe with some of the top coaches in the nation for their commitments. 


Comments Show All Comments

BuckeyeBoyer85's picture

Great stuff Jordan. Should be an exciting process to follow in the next few years. If you had to pick one player you feel most comfortable about as a Buckeye, who would that be?

Wayne Woodrow Hayes

Jordan Wagner's picture

I don't think any of these guys are Buckeye locks or even heavy leans at this point. To answer your question, I'd take Carlton Bragg. I have Luke Kennard going to UK right now. Wouldn't rule out Michigan, Duke or Ohio State (probably that order). We'll have to watch out for Kentucky with Bragg. I tend to think this would be a OSU-UK battle if Kentucky offers. 

It's still early for V.J. King and Willie Jackson. Jackson doesn't have an OSU offer yet, but if he does I think we have a very good chance. King is definitely interested in the Buckeyes. Born in Ohio, but grew up in North Carolina. There has been some talk of him possibly transferring to Oak Hill, but they were refuted. I don't have a read on King. It's simply too early since he isn't doing much with recruiting.

raiderred's picture

Hope thad is able to build a fence around Ohio next two years.

BrooklynBuckeye's picture

I know this is just Ohio guys, but I REALLY hope Mickey Mitchell ends up in the 2015 class. 

skid21's picture

Kennard is all UK from what I've heard. He also has good relationships with TTUN's coaches. I don't see him as a Buckeye. I hope I'm wrong.

Seattle Linga's picture

Hey I know we are two years away but what about Esa Ahmad out of Shaker Heights. He is really worth the watch.

Jordan Wagner's picture

I agree that Esa Ahmad is one to watch in the 2015 class. I think the Buckeyes will hold off on an offer until they know where they stand with some of their other targets. 

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

In Matta we trust!
Great recruiting information.  I always enjoy getting the latest on the talent that is out there.  Great job guys!
Go Bucks!

LVbucksNV's picture

Why not list the size and position or projected position of these kids?
Thanks for the article.


Jordan Wagner's picture

Carlton Bragg: PF 6-foot-8, 180-210 pounds. 

Luke Kennard: SG 6-foot-5, 182 pounds

V.J. King: SF 6-foot-6, 175 pounds

Willie Jackson: SF/PF 6-foot-6, 190 pounds

chowoon97's picture

Luke Kennard Has to learn lesson from Kyle Wiltjer. 
He is not Calipari-type guy.

Bobcat04's picture

Matta has done a great job of going outside Ohio to get talent.  Bates-Diop and Russell are both 5 stars, are they not?  However, it makes you feel at least somewhat disappointed that there are a couple of the country's top players within an hour and a half of Columbus and not only is OSU not the team to beat, but it seems like there's not a feeling of confidence about any of them. 
  Thad has earned a large measure of trust for his sustained success, but it'll be troubling if we can't cash in on these guys.  I guess every in-state haul can't be like the All-Ohio Red steal from a few years back, but it hurts so much more when these guys leave.  The blue bloods like UK and Duke can walk in and shoot right past us on the list, and now (horrors!!) TTUN is turning into a basketball recruiting monster.  
  Until the product starts flagging on the court, I guess all is well and good, but I just hope I'm worrying for nothing...   

pjtobin's picture

I don't know a whole heck of a lot about the bball side of TOSU. I'm a learning though. Thanks. 
I thought we won the big ten tournament? And haven't we made the sweet 16 the last three years? So shouldn't ppl start seeing us as a bball school as well as football ? I would think recruits would take notice. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

Kindell's picture

 It's a little concerning that so many elite prospects in the state could be going elsewhere.   I wish we would be more aggressive with Kennard.  This is really going to have some major impact on the future in recruiting as well.  The last thing Matta wants is Calipari to come in and grab a couple of elite prospects.  He is an elite recruiter and it wouldn't be good for him to develop relationships in Ohio.

Edincostarica's picture

Let's hope Thad works some of his Matta magic. I don't know much about Jackson but it would great to get Kennard, King and Bragg.


Mirror Lake Jump's picture

Landing a few of these guys would help sustain the success of Buckeye hoops. Hope we can bring them into Buckeye Nation

clarkti's picture

My thoughts if you are from Ohio and don't want to play for the Buckeyes and Thad Matta, who won how many Big Ten Championships? Been to the final four twice, then we should move on and recruit some other five star player who really wants to play for the Buckeyes!  

skid21's picture

I think people may be expecting too much of Matta. The man has brought OSU basketball into the limelight. However, expecting him to be on even ground with programs like UK and Duke is expecting too much. Just look at the interest in basketball compared to football on this site. A player who goes to UK is automatically a BMOC with thousands of twitter followers. OSU fans are fair weather at best when it comes to hoops. I am hyped that he has been able to do as well as he does. He takes advantage of the popularity of the football program but when push comes to shove he has a MUCH harder sell than Urban. All of these recruits think they will be the next big thing and they want a big stage. The UKs and Dukes of the world offer that, in theory at least. If Matta looses out on some top recruits from Ohio it isn't all his fault. JMHO. We need better basketball/more fans.