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Ohio State's Keita Bates-Diop primed for breakout year

The Illinois product brings lots of recruiting hype and skill, now it's time for it to translate into production for the Ohio State basketball team.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

With an inexperienced and young squad this year, Thad Matta's Ohio State Buckeye basketball team will need to rely on any sort of veteran presence they can find. And while Keita Bates-Diop isn't exactly a graybeard, he'll be counted on to provide a steadying touch and increased production if the Buckeyes are to find success in the 2015-16 season, especially as a scoring option.

A look back

It's hard to believe, but Bates-Diop committed to the Buckeye program nearly 3 years ago - on November 18, 2012 - a major recruiting victory over programs like Michigan and Illinois.

The Normal, Illinois native would finish his prep career ranked as the 29th best overall player in the class of 2014 and Ohio State fans were eager to see his talents translate to the next level.

It's safe to say his freshmen season at OSU didn't always live up to expectations. Bates-Diop saw action in 33 games during the 2014-15 campaign, chipping in 3.8 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. Overshadowed by fellow freshman, D'Angelo Russell, he struggled to find a consistent place in the rotation during Big Ten play, even for a Buckeye team sometimes desperate to score.

With Marc Loving struggling mightily after his mid-season suspension, Bates-Diop never quite found the way to step up his defense and steal some minutes.

His best game came on a visit to Rutgers, where he contributed 14 points and 9 rebounds off the bench in just 19 minutes of action, and against VCU in the NCAA tournament where he would hit two crucial three-point baskets in Ohio State's three-point win.

Outlook for 2015-16

Bates-Diop will have a chance, but is unlikely to crack the starting rotation to begin the year. Look for the sophomore to provide valuable minutes and a hot hand as one of the first reserves off the bench.

This is of course all dependent on Bates-Diop playing good enough defense to earn Thad Matta's full trust.  Early reports from practice seem to be good, and he is at least showing off his athleticism.

Open scrimmage dunk contest winner @kbd_33 (Photo credit to Steve Helwagen)

A photo posted by JEFF BOALS (@jeffboals) on

Best case scenario 

Do you remember another Buckeye wing and Illinois native that averaged only 8 points and 4 rebounds his freshman year?  His name was Evan Turner, and he went on to become the national player of the year and helped the Buckeyes win a ton of games.

Saying Bates-Diop is the next Evan Turner is probably a bit ambitious, but the skill sets are similar. While not nearly as good of ball handler as Turner,  Bates-Diop should have more than the necessary athleticism to give minutes at the 2, 3 and 4. Bates-Diop can shoot, dribble, and get to the basket.

If Marc Loving can't snap out of his malcontent status early, Bates-Diop could step up to provide the Buckeye with a scoring treat from deep and there's an outside chance he could be the Buckeyes' best scoring option, period.

Worst case scenario

Worst case?  He's lazy on defense and his shot isn't falling. If those things happen, it's going to be tough to see much playing time and with so many young wings on the roster -- getting passed by a freshmen could doom Bates-Diop's Ohio State career.

And while it's a good thing in some sense if Mickey Mitchell and Austin Grandstaff see some PT this year, it's probably not a good sign if it's coming at the expense of Bates-Diop. A bad year by the sophomore would be a significant blow to the program and might actually make some of those not-so-good predictions come true.