With guards Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr set to graduate this spring along with junior forward LaQuinton Ross leaving school early to pursue a career playing professional basketball, the Buckeyes' starting lineup is going to have a very different look for the 2014-2015 season.
Next year's basketball team got a huge boost when Temple graduate transfer power forward Anthony Lee announced he would be playing his final year of college basketball for Thad Matta and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The former Temple Owl was on campus for an official visit Thursday through Saturday and committed to the coaching staff right before he left to go home to Philadelphia, where he'll complete this semester, graduate, then set his sights on his final season of eligibility in Columbus. Lee is very excited to be a part of the Ohio State basketball program.
"It's a great institution and very storied program. I was able to meet the vice president and athletic director; I really got the culture there. Getting into the Masters program is really important to me and will help me when basketball is done. I really want to be able to set myself up to make a good living and impact people's lives. That's something that's really important to me," Lee said. "Seeing that and all of the connections they had was very exciting. The coach, Thad Matta, is a genuine, honest guy. All coaches are honest, but they had a real need for me to be a go-to guy. Every school that was talking to me needed me, but not all of them really needed me to be a go-to scorer. Coming to Ohio State with all of the guys they're losing, when I saw that it put it in my head that they needed me. A lot of coaches say they need you as a recruiting tool, but coach Thad Matta was definitely real and had more of a need for me to be a go to scorer, which was really important to me. I now know what's in store for me this coming season."
Thad Matta and the Ohio State coaching staff were very excited when the 6'9 big man, who averaged 13.6 points to go along with 8.6 rebounds, would be playing for them next year. He's pumped to play a big role in the offense after finishing as Temple's fourth leading scorer next year.
"I think they were scared because they didn't know if I was going to say anything and they thought I was going to wait because I had previously told people I wasn't going to commit," he continued. "I knew what level all of the programs recruiting me were at; their facilities, and all of that. It really came down to how in tune me and the coach were with each other. When I committed he threw a paper and almost fell out of his chair. Everyone was clapping and it felt like I had just signed an NBA contract or got drafted. My mom started crying and they were just talking about how important it was to them."
"They were saying that wanted me to be that number one guy with the experience and leadership I had. No other coach said that. Other coaches were telling me the truth, but he was the only coach who told me he wanted me to be 'the guy'," he said. "The team they had this year won 25 games with no inside presence. There's a good recruiting class coming in and a good starting core. I feel like next year we'll be able to get a lot further. All programs talk about championships, but they really needed me in order to help them win one."
Lee spent parts of three different days in Columbus, where he obviously was shown a good time. One of the things he had the chance to do was to spend time with the players.
"We had dinner and were all watching the Sweet 16 games. We were all having fun and just chilling. We were just talking and doing stuff. There was a good vibe and we bonded. They were telling me they needed me to help them win a championship," Lee told Land-Grant Holy Land. "I know I can give the team what they need."
While he enjoyed the whole visit, there was one part that stood out to him above everything else.
"Just meeting all of the coaching staff. That was my favorite part," Lee continued. "It's more about the coaches and the players than anything. I'm just excited to get started for the season. I'm really amped up to play again and to be in front of a crowd every night is something I'm excited for because I love playing in environments like that."
He spent a lot of his court time at the 4 last year and that will likely be the case at Ohio State as Amir Williams returns as the starting center.
"He's going to use me as a stretch forward inside and out," Lee stated. "Coach Matta was showing me footage of Jared Sullinger and Kosta Koufus and told me he needed me to do that. He saw clips of me doing that in flashes, but he wanted me to do it consistently."
Lee knows his decision isn't popular with everybody, but that doesn't phase him the least bit as he's very comfortable with his decision to attend Ohio State.
"There will be negatively from other fans (on Twitter) and coaches who are upset; some people might get down about that stuff, but it doesn't affect me because I've never been at the top," he said. "I'm blessed. It showed me how many teams really wanted me."
It's definitely safe to say that the standout soon-to-be senior is excited to get to Columbus this summer and help the Scarlet and Gray work towards another conference crown.
"I'm excited to get to Ohio State and help their program get back to where they were already at," he continued. "It's not like they didn't make to the big dance. I'm really excited and the coaches are texting me just saying how happy they are; there was jubilation in there. It was a great experience and I'll never forget it. It's just the beginning."
I can't stress enough how excited Anthony is to be a Buckeye after having a lengthy conversation with him. He's ready to come to Columbus and be a big part of next year's basketball team. He'll also be a great person for the younger players to be around.