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

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

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.

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