Ohio State is growing closer with some of the nation's top prep school basketball programs. It all started with D'Angelo Russell in 2014, as the eventual No. 2 overall draft pick of the Los Angeles Lakers spent three years at Montverde Academy before moving on to Ohio State.
That relationship is intensified this season, as four players on Ohio State's current roster once played at the prep school level. Sophomore guards JaQuan Lyle (IMG Academy), CJ Jackson (Montverde Academy) and freshmen big men Derek Funderburke (Hargrave Military Academy) and Micah Potter (Montverde Academy) each spent at least one year at the prep school level.
Ohio State head man Thad Matta spoke to Eleven Warriors about some of the advantages that come with a player from the prep school ranks.
"It’s funny because both Micah and Derek were committed to us before they went to the prep school. I think one of the biggest differences is Derek and those guys last year were 47-1 so they played 48 games," Matta said. "For Micah, kind of the same thing. They play more of a national schedule, if you will, that sort of thing."
And national schedule is right. For Funderburke, his 48 games last season were a career-high for any year, as the 6-foot-9 post helped lead Hargrave Military Academy to a national prep championship alongside 2017 point guard commit Braxton Beverly. The high level of competition doesn't end with the opposition, however, as Potter faced some of the nation's best big man talent on his own team with Montverde Academy.
Competition level isn't the only plus either, as the time away from home eliminates an adjustment period that most freshmen go through in college. By going the prep route, players get that adjustment away from home while still in high school, which most times allows freshmen to hit the ground running once they get to college.
"I think one thing that does make a difference is they have been away from home," Matta said. "When they get to campus, that’s not an issue of adjustment. They’ve done it before for a year or in D’Angelo’s case for three years.”
With four current players and one commit from the prep school level, Ohio State is no stranger to coaching players who appear to be a little further along the ladder than others. Russell started the trend of prep school success for the Buckeyes as that looks to continue with Lyle, who is poised for a breakout sophomore season. First-year players Jackson, Funderburke and Potter have a chance to each see significant playing time this winter.
Beverly, who committed to Ohio State earlier in the month, is in year two of his career at Hargrave, as the 6-foot point guard played an instrumental role in his team's national championship a year ago. Beverly joins 6-foot-10 center Kaleb Wesson in the 2017 class, who attends Westerville South, helping lead the Wildcats to a state championship last season alongside brother and Ohio State freshman Andre Wesson.
As it stands, the Wesson brothers are the only commits in OSU's 2016 and 2017 classes to not attend prep school, but each bring a winning pedigree and Buckeye bloodline to Columbus. In the 2018 class, all three commits attend public schools in Ohio, as there have been no reported inklings of any of the trio considering prep. However, we would not be surprised to see any of the three choose to go the prep school route for the 2017-18 season.