In 2006, Thad Matta brought in Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook, David Lighty and Othello Hunter as part of his first high-profile recruiting class as the head coach of Ohio State. There was so much hype, in fact, the group was given a nickname: “The Thad Five.”
Nearly 10 years later, after Matta has had a number of successful seasons and is now the winningest coach in program history, he’s signed another group with similar expectations.
The 2015 recruiting class — consisting of A.J. Harris, Austin Grandstaff, JaQuan Lyle, Mickey Mitchell and Daniel Giddens — doesn’t have a nickname just yet. One could be coming, though, as expectations for the group are high.
The Buckeyes lost a lot from their 2014-15 group, including a five-man senior class in addition to a first-team All-American in D’Angelo Russell. The chance to make an immediate impact is certainly there.
The new-wave “Thad Five” is all officially on campus as of Sunday afternoon. Here’s what to look for from the talented group, rated as the nation’s No. 11 class by 247Sports.
With the departure of Russell and Shannon Scott, Ohio State’s two primary ball handlers are both gone. Because of that, Harris — a four-star recruit out of Dunbar High School in Dayton, Ohio — will get a chance to make an immediate impact at the point.
Standing just 5-foot-9, size has always been the question for Harris. But there have been plenty of undersized guards who have succeeded in the Big Ten and Matta has always praised Harris’ ability to compete despite his lack of size. He’s a capable shooter and ball handler and, with such a high demand for a point guard, seems like a logical choice to earn quite a bit of playing time this season.
When you’re an elite shooter, coaches can usually find a spot for you on the floor. That’s exactly what the Buckeyes have in Grandstaff as Matta proclaimed on National Signing Day that the four-star guard from Rockwall, Texas was a better shooter during his high school career than former Ohio State great Jon Diebler.
Again, the Buckeyes have two open spots in their starting backcourt with Scott and Russell’s departure so it appears Grandstaff will compete for minutes this season with redshirt sophomore Kam Williams at the shooting guard position.
Fair or unfair, Lyle will be looked at as Russell’s replacement. He’s the Buckeyes’ highest-ranked recruit and, standing 6-foot-5, he’s got good size for a combo guard who can play both on and off the ball much like Russell did during his one season in Columbus.
Right now, Lyle figures to be one of the starters in the backcourt because of his versatility, but it remains to be seen how he’ll be used initially, either as a ball handler or at the shooting guard spot.
Mitchell is probably Ohio State’s most versatile player in this class as Matta has stated he feels the Plano, Texas native can play all five positions for the Buckeyes.
He’s an elite passer for someone who stands 6-foot-7, but with Marc Loving and Keita Bates-Diop already on the roster, minutes may be hard to come by for Mitchell this upcoming season.
All of Ohio State’s big guys from last season — Amir Williams, Trey McDonald and Anthony Lee — are gone so there’s a definite possibility for Giddens to get some early playing time next season.
The Buckeyes also have new additions in Trevor Thompson (sat out last year due to transfer rules) and Dave Bell (redshirted last year as a true freshman) to compete with Giddens, but he’ll get a chance to compete.
Giddens is an extremely athletic 6-foot-10 big who is already ready to play college ball on the defensive end. He’s raw offensively, though, so there’s plenty of room for improvement on that end of the floor.