Ohio State Suddenly Has An Abundance of Scholarships to Use; What Can the Buckeyes Do With All the Open Spots?

By Tim Shoemaker on March 31, 2016 at 8:35 am
Thad Matta and Jeff Boals have some scholarship options.

In case you hadn't heard, there has been some recent roster turnover in the Ohio State basketball program.

Daniel Giddens transferred Monday. Mickey Mitchell and A.J. Harris followed suit Tuesday. Trevor Thompson decided to declare for the NBA Draft, but he is expected to return to school next year as he opted not to hire an agent.

The state of Thad Matta's program is a hot topic around Columbus right now, and rightfully so. These three transfers plus the departure of Austin Grandstaff in December left the Buckeyes with just one member — JaQuan Lyle — remaining in its once highly-touted 2015 recruiting class. That's quite alarming. Add that to the fact Ohio State missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in eight seasons and there's quite a healthy number of fans who are more than concerned about the current position of the program.

If there's a silver lining in all of this it's that the immediate impact may not be so bad. The Buckeyes are expected to return their top-six scorers from last season's team. Assuming Thompson comes back to school, Ohio State will bring back 87 percent of its scoring, 83 percent of its rebounding and 79 percent of its assists. There's a strong core in place and the players who departed — outside of maybe Giddens — were expected to have similar roles as reserves on next year's team. Those spots can be filled, and Matta and Co. certainly don't have a shortage of options on their hands.

Let's start with what is already in the fold for the Buckeyes: a pair of big men who now must step right in and contribute with Giddens no longer in the mix.

Derek Funderburk is a 6-foot-9 big man out of Cleveland who played his final high school season at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia. He is a four-star recruit and the 69th-ranked prospect in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. Micah Potter, a 6-foot-10 center out of Mentor, Ohio, played his final high school season down at Montverde Academy in Florida. Potter is an offensively skilled big, but might be seen as a bit more of a developmental prospect. He is a three-star recruit and Ohio's 13th-ranked player in the 2016 class.

Those two are signed, sealed and delivered to Ohio State. They'll be on campus in June and will need to be ready to go right away to provide the Buckeyes with some frontcourt depth.

But Ohio State already had one scholarship open up for upcoming classes back in December when Grandstaff opted to leave the program and head to Oklahoma. Three additional scholarships freed up this week with Giddens, Mitchell and Harris also moving on. Those spots will need filled and don't be surprised if a few of them come right away in the 2016 class.

Andre Wesson, a late-rising prospect from nearby Westerville, Ohio, is the older brother of 2017 commit Kaleb Wesson. After a breakout senior season, Andre Wesson earned a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes on March 22. Andre Wesson is a 6-foot-7 guard/wing combo who can defend at a pretty high level and is also a capable 3-point shooter. Wesson recently earned a scholarship offer from Butler, as well, but it would be very surprising for him not to wind up at Ohio State next season.

Another name that has been tied to the Buckeyes for quite some time now is four-star point guard Markell Johnson out of East Tech High School in Cleveland. Johnson is the 65th-rated overall player in the 2017 class, but he said recently he is considering a reclassification to 2016. An explosive athlete, Johnson would be a dynamic addition to Ohio State's backcourt. He has an offer, but is also considering Louisville, Virginia Tech, Cleveland State and N.C. State.

There's also a strong possibility the Buckeyes go the graduate transfer route to add another player for the upcoming 2016-17 season. On Monday, it was reported New Mexico's Cullen Neal would be taking a visit to Ohio State in mid-April. Neal has two years of eligibility remaining after graduating in just three years and he would be eligible to play immediately. Neal is a 6-foot-5 combo guard who averaged 12.3 points and 3.7 assists per game last season for the Lobos.

Notice a common thread here?

If the Buckeyes are going to add anybody here late to the 2016 class, it's going to be a guard. With the departures of both Grandstaff and Harris, Ohio State only has two scholarship guards left on its roster: Lyle and Kam Williams. The Buckeyes desperately need more depth in the backcourt.

Neal likely isn't the only graduate transfer in the backcourt Ohio State will pursue. There are an abundance of options out there, but it's all about finding the right fit. ESPN.com recently published a list of all available transfers this season and there certainly may be a few additional candidates that the Buckeyes have interest in.

The bottom line: Ohio State likely isn't done with its 2016 recruiting class as this newfound flexibility with scholarships gives it plenty of options. So while the Buckeyes have been rocked by player departures here over the last few days, it's likely they get at least one additional player, if not more, into the program in the next month or so.

But Ohio State obviously can't afford to add players that are going to leave after just one season like 80 percent of its once highly-touted 2015 class did. The Buckeyes have to get these next few additions right.

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