With news that Ohio State big man Dave Bell would leave the program on Friday afternoon, the Buckeyes suddenly find themselves with multiple scholarship slots for next season. With Trevor Thompson also leaving the program, the Buckeyes will have three openings for 2017.
There isn’t necessarily a glaring hole on the roster right now, as the core of what should make up next year’s team, JaQuan Lyle, Kam Williams, Jae’Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop, will all return. Andre Wesson, C.J. Jackson, Micah Potter, new big man recruit Kaleb Wesson, and redshirt four-star Derek Funderburk will help fill out the squad. Throw in freshman point guard Braxton Beverly, and that could easily be your rotation. It might be more than your rotation.
But the limitations of that core have been on display for the last two seasons. The Buckeyes have missed the NCAA Tournament both years, and have been a relative non-factor in Big Ten play. If you anticipate big years from the incoming freshman, and major improvements from Potter and Funderburk — one reporter at least thinks that is possible — that could be enough to get the Buckeyes over the hump and get some momentum back into the program, before an influx of strong 2018 Ohio talent can infuse new upside into the program.
Still, with space on the roster, and with next year being a critical year for both Thad Matta and Ohio State basketball generally, some reinforcements would be greatly welcomed.
So where could those come from?
Right now it looks like the Buckeyes have offered two potential graduate transfers.
One option is Pitt’s Cameron Johnson:
Pitt transfer Cam Johnson's offer list:— Corey Evans (@coreyevans_10) April 7, 2017
Johnson is a unique option because unlike most other graduate transfers, he actually has two years of eligibility remaining. He’s from Moon Township, not far from the PA/OH state line, and offers a skillset badly needed for Ohio State: deep shooting. The 6’8 swingman averaged 11.9 points a game last year, and shot 41.5% from deep, hitting over two a game. Johnson could potentially fill an expanded Marc Loving-type role for the Buckeyes, providing size as well as badly needed floor spacing.
It would be shocking though if Ohio State was able to beat out Arizona and Kentucky for a player they want. The fit would be there, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up too much for Johnson.
Another possible, and more likely option, is James Daniel out of Howard:
Howard grad transfer James Daniel tells me he has cut his list to Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee, and DePaul. Immediately eligible.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 8, 2017
Daniel bring one critical skill: he gets buckets. The guy led the entire country in scoring in 2015-2016, dropping 27 points a game. But injuries to his ankle limited him to only two games last year.
Daniel isn’t a big guy (6’0, 175 pounds), isn’t especially efficient, and will probably find that the Big Ten is a big step up in difficulty. But prolific scoring is prolific scoring, and Ohio State would certainly welcome somebody another proven scorer to their backcourt.
A lot of 2017 talent is already spoken for, but the Buckeyes are still looking at at least three more 2017 guards, per Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch. Those include Thomas Allen, Mark Smith, and M.J. Walker. The Buckeyes aren’t favorites in any of those races (they probably have the best shot at Smith), but any of those three would be a major addition. The Buckeyes could get involved in other recruits, perhaps a big man, now that David Bell is leaving, as well as JUCO players.
Bank the scholarships
If Ohio State strikes out on any of these players, they don’t necessarily have to add anybody else, although a third big man or some additional shooting could substantially improve their team next season. 2018 is another year with strong Ohio talent, and the Buckeyes could roll over a scholarship or two to try and make an even bigger splash in another season.