After a brief foray into Ohio State history and discussing the best athletes to don the scarlet and gray from around the state, we’re returning to present day this week. While scoring is sexy and fun, assists are important too, and we want to know who will dish out the most dimes this season.
Last week, Connor and Justin argued who the best Ohio State basketball player was who came out of Columbus. Connor chose Michael Redd, while Justin went with Jared Sullinger. It was tight, but Connor won out with 41% of the vote. Justin and Sullinger grabbed 39% of the vote, while “other” netted the remaining 20%.
After 65 weeks:
(There have been two ties)
This year’s Ohio State men’s basketball team is beginning to take shape. Justice Sueing has been fully cleared for practice/games, and Seth Towns should not be too far behind. The four freshmen who are expected to see significant minutes this season all saw significant minutes on the recent Bahamas trip.
And hey, it’s September. That means we’re less than eight weeks away from tipoff.
Today’s question: Who will lead Ohio State men’s basketball in assists this season?
Connor: Bruce Thornton
I don’t think this Ohio State team has a singular de-facto point guard who is going to dominate minutes at the position and therefore lead the team in assists by a longshot (like a CJ Walker or Aaron Craft). Freshman Bruce Thornton and fifth-year transfer guard Isaac Likekele (pronounced “likely”) will likely split time at point guard early in the season.
Likekele is the only player in Oklahoma State history to score 1,000 points, grab 600 rebounds, and record 400 assists in program history. That versatility and do-it-all ability is what made Ohio State go after him — and also what will make it harder for him to lead the team in assists.
Chris Holtmann will deploy “Ice” in all kinds of situations this season. He will see time at point guard, as well as shooting guard, small forward, and even power forward. There will be plenty of instances where Thornton and Likekele are on the floor at the same time, and when that occurs, Thornton will be the one handling the ball.
Despite being more the size and shape of a college running back than a point guard at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Thornton is a pure, pass-first point guard. When he takes shots, he’s more likely to assault the basket with his bulky frame than to sit outside and shoot three-pointers. His ability to drive into the paint will also play dividends in the passing game — if he can draw multiple defenders in on the drive, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to hit open men on the perimeter.
While Likekele has the talent and skillset to rack up a bunch of assists, I’m not sure if he will even crack the starting lineup in November. Thornton has a good chance to begin the season as PG1, and the ball will be in his hands more than any other player. I could see Thornton leading the team in assists with somewhere around 4.0 per game, while Likekele racks up somewhere between 3.0 and 3.5.
Justin: Isaac Likekele
This is an interesting question, and I am glad we are doing this because I think it is the most up in the air statistic of all of them. Scoring could really be anyone and rebounding is probably set in stone, so this question is nice because it falls in the middle. It can’t be anyone, but there are likely four or five guys that it could be. That being said, I am going with Isaac Likekele.
For the folks just tuning in, Likekele is a transfer from Oklahoma State. He is also next up in our Land-Grant Holy Land men’s basketball player preview series so stay tuned for that.
Anyway, Likekele is kind of like Justice Sueing in the sense that he is a Swiss army knife. On any given night, he can give you 10-7-7 and play 35 minutes in the game. One of those things that he is very good at is passing the ball and snagging assists.
At Oklahoma State, Likekele played 114 games and started in 110 of them, averaging 3.9 assists in his career and averaged as high as 4.5 assists per game during his sophomore campaign.
He ranked seventh in the Big 12 in assist to turnover ratio at 1.6, so as a fifth-year senior he has proven he is reliable handling the ball and knows what to do with it. He was also the third player in program history to record 100 assists and 40 steals in his freshman and sophomore seasons, along with Bryce Eaton and current Boston Celtic Marcus Smart. He is reliable with the ball and always has been from day one.
Likekele will also benefit from simply playing time. As a fifth-year senior and someone who has proven can be trusted, especially on a fairly young team, Likekele will play heavy minutes. For his entire career, he averaged 31.3 minutes per game in Stillwater and that number likely will not dip this season and if it does, it only will be a little bit.
I will go out on a limb and say that Likekele will not only lead Ohio State in assists, but he will also finish in the top 10 in the Big Ten.
Who do you think will lead Ohio State in assists?
This poll is closed
Bruce Thornton (Connor)
Isaac Likekele (Justin)