With his high school team (Montverde Academy), D'Angelo Russell won not one, but two high school national championships during his college prep years. Now, Russell is looking to take his success and skills to the next level with Ohio State.
Russell worked his magic not only on the high school courts, but also on the AAU circuits, helping the shooting guard rise in the recruiting rankings quickly to a five-star prospect under the 247Sports Composite. The smooth scoring guard can play both guard positions well, but is probably best suited at the two. What else can we expect from Russell?
Last season stats (HS senior): 19.3 points, 4.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds per game
A Look Back:
D'Angelo Russell's track record as a high school star is well known at this point. The 6'5, 176-pound Russell helped lead Montverde Academy to two high school national championships by doing a little bit of everything for his teams. Russell is a pure scorer, with his shooting ability, scoring instincts, ball-handling, and has underrated passing ability. Russell wasn't just a scorer for his high school and AAU teams, as he could also become the facilitator that was sometimes more important to the outcome of the game. Since he knew he had talent around him, it helped expand his game as he prepared himself for the next level at Ohio State.
Outlook for 2014-15:
There's almost no question that Russell will have a chance to shine with the Buckeyes in 2014. Expected to make the starting lineup (and most likely will be listed as the backup point guard to Shannon Scott) in hopes that he'll be able to translate his success from high school into college, the talented scorer could mean we see a different Ohio State team since the days of the nightmarish offense they've had the past two seasons.
While Russell won't be the only freshman to see the court this season for Ohio State, he will be the one that could, and most likely will, see the most time coming in as one of the five-star prospects in the country. Just recently, coach Matta talked about the potential that Russell has for this upcoming season:
"I'm very pleased with how he's playing in practice, the strides he's making. He's doing a great job of kind of taking the court over every time he steps on the court. How does that factor into once we start playing games, the lights are on? He's played in some huge basketball games throughout his high school career, AAU career. And he's come up (big). Two high school national championships with Montverde is impressive. He's going to have some ups and downs, but I like his demeanor. I like the things that he can do on the court, and we've got to keep coaching him and keep him as healthy as we can."
Best Case Scenario:
D'Angelo Russell proves that his athleticism and scoring ability isn't just limited to his high school and AAU days and helps Ohio State vastly improve from their offensive struggles the past couple of seasons. Russell also provides a talented defender, giving his full effort on the court each night a la Aaron Craft. While he might not reach the same level defensively right away, Russell has all of the tools to become a more than solid defender during his time as a Buckeye.
The best case scenario is that Russell simply lives up to the hype of what he's garnered so far as an upcoming freshman and helps Ohio State contend for a Big Ten title and make another decent run in the NCAA tournament, providing a consistent scoring threat next to Shannon Scott and locking down opposing guards alongside the senior point guard.
Worst Case Scenario:
Russell's ball handling leaves plenty to be desired going against other Big Ten guards and has inconsistencies throughout the season with his shooting. Russell's scoring fluctuates every time he's on the court, becoming a smaller, less consistent version of LaQuinton Ross. Because of his offensive struggles, Russell gets lazy as a defender and doesn't put in enough effort to keep himself on the court, causing a lot of headaches for coach Matta as he tweaks with the rotation of his players.
The worst case scenario leaves Russell in a state of constant movement on the rotation, never finding the right spot or fit in his first season with Ohio State, leaving the Buckeyes looking for answers or pushing Russell to produce at the level they know he's capable of. Regardless, Russell will get his opportunities to shine no matter what, and is still athletic enough to make plays and be somewhat of a threat to opponents this season.