MP3 players. Flip phones. Human beings actually looking at and talking to each other when they’re sitting in the same room. All things of the past, much like the topic of today’s basketball-focused “You’re Nuts” debate between our good friends Connor and Justin.
Whoops, did I go too far back with those relics? They’re not from 2015? My bad. Anyway, we’re marching right along.
Last week, we debated which March Madness team was the biggest “Cinderella” of all-time. Connor went with the 2018 UMBC Retrievers, who were the first 16-seed to ever win a game in the NCAA Tournament. Justin also picked a 2018 tournament team, but he chose the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, who made a run all the way to the Final Four as an 11-seed.
For the first time ever (in seven weeks) we had a tie! Both Connor and Justin pulled 40% of the vote, while the always-ornery “other” crowd represented the final 20%. We’ll call it a draw, and give neither person a win. Which means that after seven weeks, Connor still holds a 4-1 lead. There’s still plenty of time for a comeback, as we will continue to write this nonsense every Friday until someone tells us to stop.
After 7 weeks
(Last week was a tie, another week the “third” option won)
We’ve done one recruiting debate before, but this week we’re talking about the infamous 2015 recruiting class. The five-player class brought a ton of hype, but very few results. Within two years, all five players had transferred out of the program. A few had some success with other programs, and one left basketball completely to pursue a music career.
Today’s Question: Which member of the 2015 recruiting class had the most potential?
Connor’s pick: A.J. Harris
A local star from Dayton Dunbar High School, Harris was the heir to the Ohio State point guard throne following D’Angelo Russell’s departure the season prior. Undersized at 5-foot-9 but lightning quick, Harris was the exact type of shot creator you look for in a prototypical point guard.
Harris averaged 18.3 points, 5.1 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.2 steals as a high school senior, lifting his recruiting rankings up to a point where he became the fourth-highest rated recruit in Ohio and the 12th-highest rated point guard in the country. He committed to Ohio State in November of 2014 as Thad Matta had locked up his point guard of the future. With a top-five recruiting class coming in and the return of starters Marc Loving, Jae’Sean Tate, and Keita-Bates Diop, the 2015-16 Ohio State Buckeyes were bound to be great... right?
Things didn’t go quite as planned for the Buckeyes that year, as they went 21-14 and missed the NCAA Tournament. Stuck behind fellow freshman JaQuan Lyle and shooting guard Kam Williams, Harris played 13.7 minutes per game as a freshman, averaging 2.8 points, 1.7 assists, and one rebound per game; he started four of Ohio State’s 35 games. Following that season — like most of that recruiting class did — Harris decided to transfer away from Ohio State.
He wound up at New Mexico State, a member of the WAC. Harris had to sit out the 2016-17 year due to the NCAA’s transfer rule (which is now obsolete), but as a sophomore the he started all 33 games for the Aggies, averaging 9.4 points, 2.9 assists, and 1.9 rebounds per game. He averaged nine shot attempts per game, picking his spots carefully while creating for others.
Harris put up strikingly similar numbers as a junior, averaging 9.5 points, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 rebounds per game. He started all but two of NMSU’s games, and increased his overall shooting percentage from 40% to 42%. Harris’s senior year was cut short after three games due to a nasty ankle injury.
Harris’s stats in college weren’t eye-popping by any means, but the reason I think Harris could have had a great career at Ohio State (had he stayed) is the fact that there really wasn’t a dependable point guard in Columbus from 2015 until 2018 when Chris Holtmann recruited Luther Muhammad to the Ohio State program. This is — obviously — assuming that JaQuan Lyle still leaves, and you’ll hear about him shortly.
Harris would have had the opportunity to run an offense that featured two future NBA players in Bates-Diop and Tate, as well as both Wesson brothers, Kam Williams, and Ohio State legend Andrew Dakich. CJ Jackson came along a year or two later, but had Harris stayed, would that have even happened?
We’ll never know how successful Harris may have been had he stayed, but his stats at New Mexico State suggest he’d have been a passable floor general at the very least, with the potential to be much more due to the talent around him.
Justin’s pick: JaQaun Lyle
I view this as an absolute win — my Marvel fans will understand that. But really, it was a tie and I am cool with that too. My pick for the long lost member of the 2015 class is one who joined the class late: five-star JaQuan Lyle
JaQaun Lyle was a five-star prospect that had a pretty insane journey as a high schooler. He was highly recruited from the jump, drawing attention from major schools and ranking as high as No. 10 in the initial 2014 class rankings. Thats when it all got pretty murky for Lyle.
He was the player that was right in the middle of the Rick Pitino and Louisville recruiting allegations where the Cardinals, and specifically assistant coach Andre McGee, sent escorts to do a “show” for Lyle when he was on a recruiting trip — I.E, when he was still in high school. Lyle decommitted from Louisville and then committed to Dana Altman and the Oregon Ducks during their heyday.
When he was committed to Louisville, he was ranked as high as No. 12 in the 2014 recruiting class. He fell to No. 41 upon de-committing from the Cardinals and committing to Oregon, but he was still incredibly highly touted as a prospect. He would end up never enrolling at Oregon due to a credit issue, and the athletic office never deemed him eligible to play. He was removed from the Ducks roster and played the 2014-15 season in high school at IMG Academy.
Then along came Thad Matta and Ohio State, as he joined the 2015 recruiting class of AJ Harris, Daniel Giddens, Mickey Mitchell, and Austin Grandstaff. Lyle entered the season as the highest-ranked recruit in the talented class and immediately made an impact for the Buckeyes. In fact, he lasted the longest in Columbus out of anyone in the 2015 class, and showed all the promise in the world in his first two seasons at Ohio State.
His freshman season, he averaged 11.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and one steal per game. During his sophomore season, he averaged 11.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. He did struggle with handling the ball and turnovers were an issue at times, but that was mostly chalked up to his youth. He was the jack-of-all trades for Matta and staff.
Almost most importantly, he also went through those two seasons incident free.
Then, after his sophomore season, he was arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. It was at this time that Ohio State announced that not only was Lyle not with the team, but he had left the program over a month before that and was not returning. It was onto another school for Lyle.
That other school ended up being New Mexico. This was the fourth school in roughly four years to secure a Lyle commitment — a stat that would make the Kardashians proud. He sat out the 2017-18 season due to the NCAA transfer rules, and sat out the 2018-19 season after he ruptured his Achilles tendon prior to the new campaign.
When he finally got on the court for the Lobos at the ripe age of what seemed like 35, he balled out. He averaged 14.9, 4.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Similar to his Ohio State stats, but with more of an offensive role. However, during the 2019-20 season, Lyle hosted an off campus while the team was on the road and he was rehabbing an injury that resulted in somebody being shot. Problems followed Lyle at each step in his career, and his luck in New Mexico was no better.
Lyle is now done with basketball after playing for Kolossos Rodus of the Greek basketball league from August-November 2020 and then mutually parting ways with the club.
Of the five guys in the 2015 class, Lyle made the largest impact in Columbus. He showed all the signs of being a future All-Big Ten type player and a guy who could have garnered national attention. He recorded a triple double in a game against Rutgers with a 16-12-11 stat line, which looked like it could be one of many to come. Instead, it seemed like the only person that could stop JaQuan Lyle and slow down his progress was JaQuan Lyle, and he did a good job of that.
He still averaged 12.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game in 95 career college basketball games and 82 career starts, but you can’t help but be left to wonder ‘what if’ had he been able to straighten things out off the court.
Which member of the 2015 recruiting class had the most potential?
This poll is closed
Connor: A.J. Harris
Justin: JaQuan Lyle
One of the other 3 players (Mickey Mitchell, Austin Grandstaff, or Daniel Giddens)