Finding the right fit for your college basketball program isn't just about what happens on the court, but off it as well. Ohio State added a key piece. How will that commitment impact the Buckeyes?
This offseason's movement has probably come to an end.
You can never say anything definitively in college basketball these days. But more likely than not, fifth-year guard Cedric Russell – who is transferring from Louisiana to Ohio State – is the final piece.
To review how we got to this point...
- March 19: CJ Walker graduated and played his final game at Ohio State.
- March 30: Jamari Wheeler transfers to Ohio State.
- March 31: Musa Jallow transfers out of Ohio State.
- March 31: E.J. Liddell enters the NBA draft.
- April 9: Duane Washington Jr. enters the NBA draft.
- April 16: Kyle Young says he plans to stay at Ohio State for a fifth year.
- April 17: Joey Brunk transfers to Ohio State.
- June 29: Washington says he will stay in the NBA draft.
- July 3: Liddell says he'll be back at Ohio State for his junior season.
Russell is a Buckeye. What does that mean for Chris Holtmann's team? Let's dive in.
On The Court
Holtmann, during a Thursday night interview on 97.1, said Ohio State could possibly add a guard to its roster to help replace Washington.
"We love Duane and obviously would’ve loved to have him as a senior, but I think for us it has to be the right fit for our roster if we’re going to add another perimeter player," Holtmann said.
Well, Holtmann – with the help of assistant coach Tony Skinn, who recruited him years ago – found that right fit. And it's a veteran with a fairly similar game to Washington's.
|MPG||PPG||APG||RPG||TO RATE||USG RATE||CLOSE 2%||LONG 2%||3-PT %||FT%||FT RATE|
|DUANE WASHINGTON JR.||32.2||16.4||2.9||3.2||15.3||25.9||54.3||36.8||37.4||83.5||21.8|
The Washington-Russell comparison isn't perfect. They've faced completely different levels of competition in their college careers, for one. But their roles last season and what they were asked to do were fairly similar. They were both the primary shot-makers in the backcourt, both led their teams in scoring, both were snipers from the outside and both were relatively inefficient inside the arc.
The key difference in their games last year was that Russell both turned it over more often than Washington yet dished significantly fewer assists. He also shot a bit worse from the foul line but got to the stripe a tad more often, and he shot slightly better from 3-point range.
One more similarity? Russell's not going to be a plus defensively. Defensive metrics aren't everything, but his defensive box plus-minus was minus-2.4 – compared to Washington's minus-0.8 – and he's working with a 6-foot-2 frame.
In what was potentially his last home game with the Cajuns, senior Cedric Russell was determined to not go out with a loss.— Seth Lewis (@SethLewisInc) February 24, 2021
The Alexandria native finished with 26 points, 5 3's and the game winning FTs. His emotions were on full display too. pic.twitter.com/QLCgYApfhg
Though the similarities between Russell and Washington are obvious, this isn't a situation where the newcomer will walk in and take over the NBA-bound guard's role. He'll join a backcourt that also includes point guard Meechie Johnson, shooting guard Malaki Branham, defensive stopper Jamari Wheeler and combo guard Jimmy Sotos.
How many minutes he plays and whether he starts will be figured out in due time. But his general role is pretty simple: Create and make shots, and become an offensive asset for the Buckeyes.
It was the Cedric Russell (@CeddypDaChief) show for Ragin' Cajuns hoops Saturday vs. Louisiana Tech.— Seth Lewis (@SethLewisInc) December 14, 2020
The Alexandria native led all scorers with 25 points and 5 rebounds in the victory, and was a key catalyst in the Cajuns 16-point, 2nd half comeback.https://t.co/yhUoSyIjR3 pic.twitter.com/2yjgq4rzjn
On the Roster
Initially when Washington went pro, it wasn't a lock that Ohio State would add another guard. Johnson has shown good progress this offseason, Branham will be a Year 1 contributor, Wheeler brings important on-ball defense and Sotos will likely be ready for some sort of uptick in minutes as a combo guard with a nice outside shot.
But as the days passed, the decision was ultimately made that the Buckeyes could use one more guard on their roster. The lack of experience on a contending team combined with the youth of Johnson and Branham and the thought of what an injury or two in the backcourt could do to this team led Ohio State to act.
So, in comes Russell.
Here's what the 2021-22 roster looks like:
Provided nothing unexpected happens, that’s will be who's on the bench when Ohio State opens the season against Akron on Nov. 9.
This is the first win for Tony Skinn, the newest assistant on Holtmann's coaching staff. He helped the Buckeyes get in the door for Russell after attempting to recruit him to join him at Louisiana Tech.
Russell is a native of Alexandria, Louisiana. He joins natives of Ohio, Indiana and Hawaii, Florida, Illinois, New York and Georgia on the Buckeyes' roster.