Austin Grandstaff, the No. 54 prospect in 247Sports’ Class of 2015 rankings, was a sought-after recruit because he does one thing exceptionally well on a basketball court: put the ball in the bucket from distance. Listed at 6-4 and 195 pounds, Grandstaff -- who committed to Ohio State in May 2014 -- has drawn comparisons to former Michigan sharpshooter Nik Stauskas and ex-Buckeye Jon Diebler, who broke Ohio State and Big Ten records for career 3-pointers during his tenure in Columbus. While the Stauskas's ceiling is probably a reach -- he was a top-10 pick, after all -- if Grandstaff can carve out a career that sniffs Diebler's, he will have proven to be a coup for Thad Matta.
A Look Back:
As a senior at Rockwall (Texas) High School, Grandstaff averaged 29 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and four 3-pointers per game. Last winter, Grandstaff, who scored more than 2,200 points in his career, tallied 169 points and 31 3-pointers over four games during a holiday tournament, including a 53-point outburst during one contest. Analysis: the young man can fill it up in a hurry. Random note: Grandstaff spent part of his sophomore season at Huntington Prep in West Virginia before returning to Rockwall.
Outlook for 2015-16:
Grandstaff’s direct competition for minutes at shooting guard is 6-2, 180-pound redshirt sophomore guard Kam Williams. Williams averaged 5.4 points in a little over 14 minutes per game last winter. One would think Williams has an early leg up on Grandstaff simply because Williams owns years of experience in the Buckeyes’ offensive and defensive systems. Grandstaff could find traction early on by exhibiting better-than-advertised awareness and foot speed on defense, and, of course, by shooting the ball well from the perimeter.
While Grandstaff may turn out to be in Diebler’s league as a shooter, Diebler had an easier path to playing time as a freshman on the 2007-08 Buckeyes. With David Lighty and Evan Turner as the only real competition for him on the wing, Diebler averaged over 21 minutes per game as a freshman.
Grandstaff won’t have that luxury, as the strength of Ohio State’s present roster is the wing position. Williams, Marc Loving, Keita-Bates Diop, and hybrid wing-forward Jae’Sean Tate are ahead of Grandstaff in that position’s pecking order and are three probable starters. Loving (46 percent) and Bates-Diop (46 percent) have already established themselves as elite 3-point shooters -- though it’s fair to say Bates-Diop’s sample size (39 attempts from 3) was small -- while Williams (35 percent) ranked in the bottom half of the Big Ten in 3-point shooting in 2014-15.
The Buckeyes’ roster versatility could work against Grandstaff, too. Say the Buckeyes start the 6-7 duo of Loving and Bates-Diop on the wing, the 6-4 Tate at forward, 6-11 sophomore Trevor Thompson at center, and 6-5 freshman JaQuan Lyle at the point. With that lineup, Matta has size, shooting, and length with Loving and Bates-Diop. Tate can guard multiple positions and score inside and outside of the paint. Lyle provides big-time size and strength for a college guard. With four additional freshmen fighting for playing time -- swingman Mickey Mitchell, forward/center Daniel Giddens, point guard A.J. Harris, and center David Bell -- playing time could become scarce for Grandstaff, especially if he falls behind Williams on the depth chart.
Best Case Scenario:
As Williams struggles with his shot, Grandstaff sprints to a hot start, converting 40 percent of his 3-pointers and surprising the coaching staff with his communication and intelligence on defense. Grandstaff leapfrogs Williams in the rotation, and even earns spot starts in Big Ten play when Ohio State can afford to sacrifice size on the wing to make room for Grandstaff’s lights-out shooting.
Worst Case Scenario:
After Grandstaff can’t find the bottom of the net in nonconference play and looks lost most of the time on defense, Matta has no choice but to bury his freshman sharpshooter at the end of the bench behind Williams (who shoots well and displays improved off-the-dribble skills), Harris (who impresses Matta with his hounding defense) and Mitchell, whose prenatural passing skills create much-needed easy shots for Ohio State offense. Grandstaff spends most of the season glued to the bench, working in the weight room and the film room, and biding time to make a bigger impact next season.