Anthony Lee, Amir Williams, Freshman Class Give Buckeyes Unusual Height

By Nicholas Jervey on April 25, 2014 at 11:00a

Debby Wong, USA Today Sports; Jamie Sabau/Getty Images North America


There are a number of reasons you'd want to grow a inch in a day. Maybe you'd like to be be able to touch the ceiling when you stand on tippy toes. Maybe you want to ride the Millennium Force at Cedar Point, or perhaps you want to play the sidekick in the Radioactive Man movie.

Basketball teams have it easier: when they want to grow an inch in one day, they can go out and secure commitments from taller players. That's exactly what Ohio State did with its freshman class and transfers.

Most relevant to Ohio State's newfound height is Anthony Lee, a 6-foot-9 senior transfer from Temple who will likely play the power forward position. Trevor Thompson, a transfer from Virginia Tech is 6-foot-11; he will redshirt in 2014-15 and then have three years of eligibility remaining.

The Buckeyes' freshman class is pretty tall as well. Three are likely to play significant minutes: Keita Bates-Diop, D'Angelo Russell, and Jae'Sean Tate. David Bell, tallest of the bunch at 6-foot-9, is a likely redshirt.

Departing Players
Name height
Aaron Craft 6-2
Lenzelle Smith Jr. 6-4
Amedeo Della Valle 6-5
LaQuinton Ross 6-8

Comparing the height of incoming and departing players, one thing is clear: the men's basketball team will be taller than it has been in years . With an average height of 78.5", 2015's nine man rotation would have been 10th tallest in the nation last year, which is good news for Ohio State.

Height is no guarantee of success – the 2011 juggernaut had an effective height of +0.0, and Matta's tallest team was 2008's NIT squad – but it does correlate to having better offense and defense. The correlation is even stronger when you ignore the smallest three players on the floor and focus on the 4 and 5 positions. In 2015, the most notable of those are Amir Williams and Anthony Lee.

Incoming Players
Name Height
Jae'Sean Tate 6-4
D'Angelo Russell 6-5
Keita Bates-Diop 6-7
David Bell 6-9
Anthony Lee 6-9
Trevor Thompson 6-11

So what will be different for Ohio State with taller players across the board? Most of all, having height ought to help with rebounding. Height doesn't necessarily help with defensive rebounding, but the particulars of incoming players helps.

One of the frustrating aspects of Amir Williams' game is his tendency to go for shot blocks. He's quite good at it, but when he goes for blocks and misses it leaves the defense vulnerable for putbacks. Anthony Lee gives the Buckeyes a rebounding when Amir swings and misses, which ought to help OSU's already good defensive rebounding.

Offensive rebounding is an even clearer case of size mattering. OSU didn't crash the boards much last year: they rebounded 29.6% of their misses, 263rd in the nation. 

Despite the tendency to blame Amir for lacking effort, he he landed just outside the top 100 in OR% last year. With Anthony Lee, who nearly as good on the offensive glass, the Buckeyes ought to have at least one rebounder in the game at all times.

The incoming height especially ought to help with shooting. Lee is athletic and motivated to score, and rangier than Williams and Trey McDonald. 

Meanwhile, the lanky freshman class ought to give Ohio State's exterior game a boost. 6-5 D'Angelo Russell, 6-7 Sam Thompson, and whoever else establishes themselves as perimeter threats will be able to shoot over their opponents. Keita Bates-Diop could fulfill Evan Turner's role as a slasher, and Jae'Sean Tate, shortest of the bunch at 6-4, can get up too

As beneficial as height may be for the offense, the defense might be more of a problem. 

As our Mike Young covered in March, Lee doesn't have great hands, he doesn't force many turnovers or blocks and he was pushed around as a center. He will be more comfortable at the 4, but he needs to hold his own further from the basket, where his height won't help if he can't keep up with the speed. 

There's no telling if Anthony Lee and Amir Williams will be able to jell. If they can coordinate on shot blocks and rebounds, they'll give OSU an interior presence like the Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas years. If they can't, OSU will squeak into the NCAA tournament and give hotheads reason to question Thad Matta's job status.

No matter what, the Buckeyes' height will lead to better rebounding and smoother offense. However 2015 goes, we'll have a case study in how big men play for Matta.


Comments Show All Comments

Stinson's picture

Anthony Lee can't be worse than Amir.

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." -Wayne Woodrow Hayes

+6 HS
BROSEPH's picture

He is a very solid player.  Won't be a star, but will contribute on a nightly basis.

+1 HS
German Buckeye's picture

As long as he plays 4-6 relentlessly and can catch a passed ball, thats an upgrade over Amir.

+2 HS
RunningFree's picture

We're getting taller, and they're getting shorter.  And it's Friday.

Today is a good day.

+8 HS
BuckeyeinSavannah's picture

It's payday Friday for me.

+1 HS
alust2013's picture

I feel really pathetic getting nostalgic about the 2011 team.

...and Michigan still sucks.

+6 HS
mh277907's picture

Assuming no one leaves early for the NBA (which is a big assumption), this team will be scary good in 2015. Especially if Mickey Mitchell sticks with the Bucks.


+2 HS
whobdis's picture

What was kind of scary before the transfers was the lack of height after this coming season. Bell (who most consider a project) is the only one on the roster anyone would consider an underneath player. I would still like to get a Dials type of guy..workhorse under the basket that stays for 4 years

+2 HS
acBuckeye's picture

Anything is better than this:


+11 HS
Nicholas Jervey's picture

Site alum Luke Zimmerman did a great job showing why that picture isn't at all fair to Amir.

The "Amir is lazy" meme will die out, God willing and the creek don't rise.

Ceci n'est pas une signature.

KBonay's picture

@Nicholas.  I will agree that the photo is unfair.  But I won't agree to cut Williams slack.  He came in as a highly regarded recruit & after 3 years has yet to make an impression and really hasn't even had a 'break-out' performance yet (maybe AZ in Sweet 16).  His numbers are weak: 7.8 pts, 1.8 blk. He is averaging 2.9 field goals a game.  And only getting 2.6 fouls a game, one could see that as not aggressive on the D-end.  Or read, lazy. He certainly doesn't pass the eye test either.  Always seems to be lagging behind the play.
Trust me.  I would LOVE to see him have a breakout senior campaign.  I would be the first to say I jumped the gun on this guy.  But I just don't see it....

+2 HS
Osurrt's picture

Look at that elevation and  and aggressiveness......

+4 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

That pic is after a whistle. Notice the ref in the background, who's in the follow thru of his foul call.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

+3 HS
warriard1002's picture

My problem is I never know who is actually going to play. Don't get me wrong I love the Job matta has done overall with the program and I am not saying i could do better but I don't think certain huys lack of playing time  prepares them for tough games later on. Mich st and even teams like Fentucky play their guys and they get valuable experience and adjust to the speed of the game faster than the Buckeye players to me. the Buckeyes seem to level off and do not increasingly get better like I see with other elite programs. not saying it happens with every program but the Buckeyes are the only one I care about

Nicholas Jervey's picture

Funny you mention that: quite a bit of stat-crunching concerning rotations was cut from this piece. I estimated OSU's effective height next year (roughly +3.0, 25th in the country), and that required minutes played estimates. A very, very rough estimate for 2015 minutes played percentage:

Name %
Shannon Scott 80
Sam Thompson 70
Amir Williams 65
Anthony Lee 60
D'Angelo Russell 60
Jae'Sean Tate 50
Trey McDonald 45
Marc Loving 40
Keita Bates-Diop 25

Critique as you will. Making it work out to 500% and model past years took far longer than you'd think.

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Bailey458's picture

Interesting graph.  It did raise some questions in my head, specifically where is Tate's health?  Is there a chance he will redshirt because of his inability to get to full speed on top of him being a freshman?  Second why is Marc Loving's projected minutes so low (16 minutes a game)?  I'm hoping Loving's offense will evolve from March to November and he will need to be on the floor a lot.  Has anything happened in your eyes that would contradict that logic?

Thanks for the info, definitely got the brain juice squishing.

Nicholas Jervey's picture

Regarding Tate: I assumed no injuries, which isn't realistic but makes for less guesswork. He's a possible redshirt along with Bell.

Loving is projected so low because there are a glut of people at the 3, he played poorly as a freshman, and there usually isn't a huge jump in minutes from freshman year to sophomore year. Keep in mind that he only played 27% of the team's minutes last year; a 50% jump wouldn't be awful for him.

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ibuck's picture

Warriard, have you noticed that Matta teams are defense first oriented?  If a player's inability/unwillingness to play D allows the other team to score repeatedly, Thad usually sits him. So OSU players have to develop in practice if they don't do in games what they've been taught.


Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Glad to hear this!  Another small advantage to have for next year.  We sure need it!

Go Bucks!!

Fuzzbuck's picture

IBUCK got it right. No D no play for Thad!!! Remember Q Ross grumbling as a freshman cuz he wasn't getting court time--- No D man. Gotta think Lee come here because he wants to play the 4. But with Amir and Lee in lineup at same time can we defend at the 3 or line/out on perimeter with those two in lineup? Just wondering. Hope it can work.

buckeyedude's picture

Height is great, but what I want to know is, can they shoot the damn ball? We need players like John Diebler and Sullinger; players that have a touch and know how to score. Just my .02.



southbay's picture

Lee has shown he can score consistently if I'm not mistaken, and then Russell and Kam Williams should add significantly to the perimeter shooting.   That's even if Thompson and Scott don't show more consistency in that department.

I was wondering, Amir does hit his free throws decently, why not have him take some shots from 15 feet or so.  He doesn't get a lot of offensive rebounds anyway, and now Lee can get on the boards.  Gotta see some kind of new wrinkles next year.

PoKeY21's picture

Will Thompson be allowed to practice against the team as a practice squad player? If so it should hopefully help Amir an awful lot.

"It was a woman who drove me to drink, come to think of it I never did hang around to thank her for that"

ibuck's picture

Yes, he can. And having to go against him in practice should help other players as well. And Thompson should improve too.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.