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Could Keita Bates-Diop find a home with the Lakers?

The team that took D’Angelo Russell just a few years ago is eyeing another Ohio State prospect.

Iowa v Ohio State Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

“The Lakers’ Monday workout is likely just the first in which some notable prospects will enter the building, and the team is officially ready to try and find their next draft steal.”

-Harrison Faigen, Silver Screen and Roll

Last week, Keita Bates-Diop was one of nearly 70 players chosen to participate in the NBA Draft Combine later this month in Chicago. With his status as reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, he is already one of the more notable of the nine players selected from the conference to attend the exclusive event. Currently projected as a mid-to-late first round selection, it doesn’t seem to be a matter of if the 6-foot-7 forward will be selected, but by whom.

One of the those teams who appears interested in the former Ohio State standout is the Los Angeles Lakers, who hold the 25th pick in the first round of the draft, scheduled for June 21st in New York. The Lakers hosted Bates-Diop at a pre-draft workout at their facilities Monday, along with a number of other players including Kansas’s Udoka Azubuike, Baylor’s Jo Lual-Acuil, Jr., Nevada’s Caleb Martin, Houston’s Rob Grey and Florida’s Jalen Hudson. Of this group, Bates-Diop is the only player widely regarded as a first-round selection.

Bates-Diop waived his final year of eligibility after the Buckeyes’ finished their 2017-18 season in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The redshirt junior finished his degree and graduated in the fall, and was honored on Ohio State’s senior night earlier this year. Bates-Diop finished the season averaging 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Coincidentally, he was part of the same 2014 recruiting class that brought D’Angelo Russell to Columbus, leading to the Lakers selecting Russell with the No. 2-overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft after one season.

Current projections have Bates-Diop listed as the 19th-best player overall, so the Lakers might not even have a shot at taking the forward. However, should he fall several picks, Los Angeles might prove to be the optimal landing spot.

“His 73 wins give him 11 more than Jim Tressel, who set the previous school record for wins in his first six seasons.”

-James Grega, Eleven Warriors

The Ohio State football program has had just six head coaches since 1951, when Woody Hayes came to Ohio State as the lead man. Of these, only Luke Fickell, filling in as interim in 2011, coached less than nine seasons. The remaining five wasted no time in building up their own empire in Columbus on the foundation of success built by their predecessors, leading to conference championships, first-round draft picks, All-American players and, in several instances, national titles in just a few short seasons.

Urban Meyer has now been at the helm at Ohio State for six seasons. Following the NFL Draft late last month, Meyer continued to build on his legacy as he sent more players to the pros. In fact, at this point in his coaching tenure, Meyer has produced more first-round draft picks than Jim Tressel, John Cooper, Earl Bruce or Woody Hayes managed in the first six seasons of their respective tenures.

Tressel had 10, including a quintet of first-round selections in 2006 (A.J. Hawk, Donte Whitner, Bobby Carpenter, Santonio Holmes and Nick Mangold). Hayes had just two in Howard “Hopalong” Cassady and Jim Parker. Meyer and Tressel also top the list when it comes to first-team All-Americans, each producing 17 in their first six years as head coach. Notably, Tressel had three, two-time selections with Hawk, Mike Doss and Mike Nugent.

When it comes to conference championships, however, Meyer is actually down one to Tressel and Bruce, both of whom won three championships in their opening six seasons. Still, Meyer’s team was ineligible for the postseason in his first year as coach in 2012 when the Buckeyes went 12-0, and, with the conference championship game being instituted in 2011, Meyer’s teams have had to win an extra game to earn a conference title.

Meyer, Tressel and Hayes also all share the distinction of winning their first conference title in the same year they won a national title (1954, 2002 and 2014).

“In my mind, Bosa is pound-for-pound the best player to suit up for Ohio State during the Urban Meyer era. For that alone, he’s worth considering.”

-Ryan Ginn, Land of 10

Of the myriad of outstanding players that Urban Meyer has developed over the last six seasons, many would seemingly provide a huge benefit if they could play for the 2018 squad. Michael Thomas would bring a proven deep threat at receiver. Taylor Decker and Pat Elflein would shore up an offensive line that will likely lack leadership next season. Ryan Shazier and Darron Lee would aid a linebacking corps that lost two starters in the offseason, and Malik Hooker would refresh a secondary that — again — lost a host of prospects to the NFL. All of the above are strong playmakers who would bring a proven, hypothetical advantage to their team.

Heading into next year, however, Ohio State may be facing a lack of depth at a position where such a problem would seem absurd given the success it has experienced over the last few seasons: Defensive end. Three of the seven former Buckeyes selected in this years draft — Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes — anchored that position last season. Along with Nick Bosa, the position group was one of the most formidable in college football. Heading into 2018, the focus shifts to defensive tackle, with Dre’Mont Jones and Robert Landers anchoring the middle of the line.

Now, with Bosa returning for his true junior (and likely final) season in Columbus, the player who would provide the biggest benefit to the team in 2018 might be Nick’s older brother, Joey. As it stands, the younger Bosa is not alone on the line by any means. The defensive end spot will feature the likes of Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper, both five-star prospects coming out of high school, and could prove to be even better than the one that just saw most of its players go pro. With two Bosas in the mix, that possibility doesn’t seem that far off.