Thad Matta: Walling Off Ohio's Borders

By Mike Young on August 18, 2013 at 1:00p

One of Jim Tressel’s finest achievements as head coach was how he kept talent in Ohio, thoroughly dominating in-state recruiting.

More than likely sarcastically smiling at Ted Valentine Matta can keep smiling if he's recruiting like this.

Less heralded – but equally as impressive – is Thad Matta’s ability to do the same. Just as it was for Tressel, the slew of talent in Ohio has been a major contributing factor to the Buckeyes' success.

Matta heavily relies on Ohio, but is not solely dependent on it. The last three years has not produced many elite in-state recruits, although it hasn’t hurt OSU's winning percentage.

The next three Ohio high school basketball classes are highly touted, however. They feature commits Jae’Sean Tate, Dave Bell, A.J. Harris and Buckeye targets Luke Kennard, Carlton Bragg, V.J. King, among others.

Based on how Matta has locked down the borders, you can reasonably expect the Buckeyes to add to its in-state recruiting success – increasing the impressive percentage of scholarships going out to Ohio high school athletes.

Where The Scholarships Are Going

Since Matta arrived as head coach, here’s how his 51 scholarships have been distributed across the United States and Europe (including projected scholarships to committed recruits in 2014 and 2015):

The basketball program’s rise coincides with 47.1 percent of scholarships handed out to Ohio talent. Furthermore, Matta has rarely needed to travel outside of the geographic region to fill out his roster. Over 78 percent of scholarships have gone to players from the Midwest.

Matta is certainly capable of recruiting outside of the Midwest, evidenced by landing LaQuinton Ross (Miss.), Shannon Scott (Ga.), Amedeo Della Valle (Italy) and Kam Williams (Md.) in the last three classes.

Buckeyes Born and Bred

Buckeye basketball has heavily relied on Ohio to fill out the roster, but are they getting the best in-state talent available

Well, according to’s rankings, they are. Since Matta’s first season, 52 Ohio recruits have appeared in Scout’s national rankings. Of those, 17 became Buckeyes.

That may not seem like a lot, considering how many scholarships went to Ohioans. To provide context, let’s take a look at the top ranked recruits who “got away” from Matta:

Class  recruit originally went to notes
2004 Andrew Brackman N.C. State Now a pitcher in the Chicago White Sox minor league system.
2005 B.J. Raymond Xavier Part of 103 wins, the most in Xavier history. Also played in six tournament victories.
2006 Raymar Morgan Michigan State Averaged 11.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in his career.
2007 O.J. Mayo Southern California Never really pursued by OSU. One and done (though still impacting USC program). Now with the Milwaukee Bucks.
2008 Yancy Gates Cincinnati Productive player, but well-known for this.
2009 Garrick Sherman Michigan State Transferred to Notre Dame. Most notable performance came in this game.
2010 Adreian Payne Michigan State Averaged 10.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last year. Entering his senior season.
2011 (see below)    
2012 Kenny Kaminski Michigan State Forced to redshirt last season due to injury.
2013 Mark Donnal Michigan Committed to Wolverines in 2011.

The Outlier: 2011

The only recruiting “miss” to draw the ire of some Buckeye faithful was in 2011. Coincidentally, that was the only year Matta didn’t add anyone from Ohio – not a single freshman, transfer nor walk-on.

Tough to be disappointed with what Ohio State came away with, however. With his 2011 recruiting class, Matta brought in LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, Amir Williams and Trey McDonald. That was also the first season for Boston College transfer Evan Ravenel.

Also, not terribly difficult to remember whom the Buckeyes didn’t recruit. Columbus Northland guard Trey Burke – originally a Penn State commit – ended up at Michigan, of course.

According to Scout, Burke was the only Ohio native to be worthy of a national ranking – a four-star prospect, 20 at point guard. It wasn’t good enough to put him over Scott (four-star, six at position) nor would he have unseated Craft for the starting role.

Even in hindsight, Burke as a Buckeye was a poor fit for both parties involved.

McDonald’s All American Distributions

Since 2004, Ohio has produced six McDonald’s All-Americans. Five of those went to Ohio State.

It’s a relatively small sample size, but it obliterates the national retention rate. Most schools can’t keep their All-Americans in state (courtesy of Deadspin):

The McDonald’s All-American list has been released annually since 1977. In the pre-Thad Matta era, 20 Ohioans were named to the team but only six attended Ohio State.

Incredibly, there was a 10-year gap between the Buckeyes landing an All-American from Ohio. From 1993-2002, there were six All-Americans from the state, but not one wound up in Scarlet and Gray.

That decade covers the tail end of Randy Ayers’ coaching career at OSU, and all but one year of Jim O’Brien’s tenure. With his last recruiting class, O’Brien stopped the drought by bringing in All-American Ivan Harris, who spent the majority of his career playing under Matta.

Outside of Ohio, Matta has landed McDonald’s All-Americans from three different states – Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Deshaun Thomas from Indiana, Amir Williams from Michigan and Shannon Scott from Georgia.


Comments Show All Comments

thatlillefty's picture

Mike - How exactly would Trey Burke have been a bad fit at Ohio State? I love Shannon Scott and I believe he will be an awesome contributor these next two seasons in Cbus. But's let's be honest, we dropped the ball on Trey Burke.
Watching him and Aaron Craft go head-to-head was something special. Although they were opponents, not once did you ever see them jawing back and forth. It was obvious they respected each other, and even enjoyed matching up. Just imagine that chemistry if the two had been playing together.
Oh, almost forgot. He grew up playing with Sulllinger! Yea, we definitely missed on Trey.
Appreciate your work, Mike. Keep it up!

Mike Young's picture

Clearly Burke's better off. Don't see how he would've had the opportunity to become a top 10 pick at Ohio State. At least initially. That's the main point, it worked out better for him.

I suppose if Matta took him over Scott, both him and Craft would be on the floor at the same time like Scott has been. Coming off the bench, still in a limited role. With that as the case, I imagine we would've seen Burke develop more slowly, along the same lines as Scott has.

Obviously OSU missed, everyone missed. Turned out to be severely underrated. But I wouldn't necessarily trade it for what they have in Craft and Scott. Huge position of strength.

Glad to stir up the debate.

Also, thanks!

ScarletNGrey01's picture

In Thad we trust!  A great recruiter AND X and O's guy, and a class act.  The buckeye basketball program is so close to becoming an elite program like a Duke, UK or Kansas.  Not sure what it's going to take to get to that next level, but Coach Matta has done an incredible job since he's taken over the program, don't think he's ever had less than a 20 win season and the bucks have been B1G champions or co-champions quite a few times during his tenure.  Tom Izzo seems to get all the love, but I think during Matta's time span the bucks actually have a better record than MSU, would have to research that to be sure.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

raiderred's picture

when I watched the findley prep vs Northland game Trey Burke did absolutely nothing from what I saw that could warrant him to give him a scholarship. Jared clearly carried the team and won it for them. Jared even took up the ball against full court pressure with 10 seconds left and they were down one. He might have gotten a lot better his senior but from what I could tell he didnt look half as good then as he does now

zbd's picture

LaQuinton Ross may be from Mississippi but I watched him play his senior year here in New Jersey. Matta has done a great job of avoiding talented but trouble makers like Mayo and Gates although Payne from Dayton Jefferson always seems to play well against the Buckeyes.

pjtobin's picture

I'm a Matta fan. If he keeps things going the way they are we could win a nc in both sports. I would love to be able to say that. I am very happy with dancing every year. I hope ppl start to recognize that we are a b ball school too. 

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

Mirror Lake Jump's picture

It's crazy to me how we keep so much talent instate when programs like Kentucky, Indiana, and Pittsburgh are within three hours of the border.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Everyone missed on Burke. Position was not one of need for Matta once Scott was on board. Burke was going to Penn St. for crying out loud. So it looks like K, Williams etc. also didn't make the right call? Let's not bash Matta for this 'miss' until Craft & Scott are done playing.

westlaneavenue's picture

The comments keep saying that "everyone missed on Burke."  not true.  Michigan didn't. Can't believe how biased our own fan base is when it comes to missing Burke.  Craft is great but he isn't half the player Burke was.  We have Burke the last two national titles belong to us.  We all have to man up and admit that.

Seattle Linga's picture

Wesetaneavenue - you can keep your comments on TTUN boards because they are truly ridiculous. Another prediction that holds no weight.  

westlaneavenue's picture

Are you kidding? Just how much in denial are you? Trey is a Columbus kid who should have been at OSU. It was a huge blunder. He'll be starting in the NBA before Scott starts a college game... And before sullinger starts an NBA game. We screwed up on this one. It happens. Matta is still an amazing coach but let's not live in a fantasy land. When we were shooting 16% against Wichita state it would have been nice to have him. 

Seattle Linga's picture

Denial - I think not! You can keep dreaming and hoping, your comments sound like guarantees that pros make before the game............. then they are no where to be found once they're wrong. You sound like the delusional Miami fans before the 02 NCG. There was no room for him on our team, read the article in its entirety before you start making your foolish statements.
Go Bucks forever!

Unky Buck's picture

I have a funny feeling you're a troll. Your comments are odd, almost entirely negative towards OSU and show a lot of love towards UM.
And don't let facts about Burke's recruitment skew your opinion. He was committed to PSU prior to UM offering. And you know, because PSU is such a hardcore basketball school, everyone else must've been pining for him. UM offered late, he changed his commitment to them and that's it. Everyone else missed on him too. He was seemingly a late bloomer and flourished in UM's system.
Also, to say Craft is half the player Burke was is absolutely ridiculous. In all of the Craft v Burke battles, Craft dominated him most of the time. Burke being on the team guarantees nothing and YOU know that. The "We all have to man up and admit that." line is completely ridiculous and worthy of the downvotes you've received.

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

Oyster's picture

He is another of those who signed up during a 3 day period around the 15th of Aug.  Check it out, there is a huge spike of new names that seem to get dinged quite a bit, and they all signed up during that time frame.  I though it was a coincidence for a bit, but I started watching it a bit closer and it follows a pattern. 

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

Unky Buck's picture

I should probably pay attention to that a little bit more. If I go to the profile, it's usually to check out what else they've been posting. That's actually how I got here and saw this. We take good care of this so they'll be dealt with accordingly, but it would be odd if this isn't coincidental though.

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

buckskin's picture

Trey's "problem" is that he was overshadowed by Sullinger, and to a lesser extent, Weatherspoon.  Not only Ohio State, but many other schools missed on Burke as well.  
Matta has done a great job locking down Ohio.  If this new girls coach can do the same thing (and it sounds like he is off to a good start), OSU could prove to be elite in that sport as well.  

Boxley's picture

Just exactly how many final fours or great 8's has Trey made it to?

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt