Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: Creating a basketball starting five from the OSU football team.
In July of 2022, while speaking at Big Ten Media Days, C.J. Stroud proudly proclaimed that he owned the best jump shot of any player on Ohio State’s football team. The two-time Heisman finalist and projected top-5 pick in this year’s NFL Draft then doubled down on his skills – along with those of his teammates – by suggesting that a handful of OSU football players could actually defeat Chris Holtmann’s basketball team in a head-to-head matchup.
Stroud’s comments drew the (faux?) ire of Zed Key, Eugene Brown III, and others on social media, but their discourse seemed to be your average, run-of-the-mill, competitive trash talk. Stroud made his comments nearly six months ago, and they likely would have stayed in the past if January basketball ceased to exist. Buckeye basketball, to be specific.
But unfortunately, Holtmann’s squad recently went on a five-game bender, dropping all five contests and sinking toward the bottom of the Big Ten. The shine vanished from a team that was once 10-3, with nothing but close losses to really good teams. So we found ourselves asking: Could Stroud really lace ‘em up in The Schott? Does he have basketball eligibility before the draft?
The obvious answer to both questions is no. And before the Holt Hive lights their torches, I must point out that we (I think I speak for Gene) do not actually believe that Ryan Day’s football players would better represent the Scarlet and Gray on the basketball court... But what if? What would the starting five be, if players were to crossover from the gridiron to the hardwood?
Point guard: Lincoln Kienholz
Every basketball teams needs a distributor, and who fits said need better than a quarterback? I could have gone Kyle McCord or Devin Brown here, but have you seen Kienholz dunk!? This kid is electric on the court, leading me to believe that he could indeed run the show for my football starting five.
Shooting guard: Julian Fleming
If you have followed my work on LGHL, you know that I am the founding father of the Julian Fleming Fan Club. If you are not familiar with my work, allow me to introduce myself as the founding father of the Julian Fleming Fan Club. Gene had to have known this was coming.
But what he may not know – or remember – is that Fleming was also a tremendous high school hooper. The now-veteran wideout had crazy hops and was a 20 ppg scorer in the state of Pennsylvania. He will fit in quite nicely next to Kienholz.
Small forward: Sonny Styles
The soon-to-be breakout safety had a handful of D1 basketball offers and won a state title with Pickerington (OH) shortly before enrolling early at Ohio State. He was teammates with Devin Royal, a future Buckeye and member of Holtmann’s loaded 2023 recruiting class. So the ties run deep. Styles had a bit of Draymond Green in his game, contributing stats across the board. He will be my lockdown defender and rebounder, while catching the occasional lob and hyping up the crowd with a thunderous dunk.
Power forward: Cade Stover
Big, strong, tough... My team needs an enforcer, and OSU’s tight end would fit the bill. But Stover was more than just a banger on the court. He was an all-state performer and put up double-doubles with regularity. Farmer Gronk gives me a skilled frontcourt player to go with Styles, and frankly, I don’t think other teams would want this smoke if things became heated.
Center: J.T. Tuimoloau
Another player who could have pursued a different sport in Columbus, Tuimoloau was a legit basketball prospect coming out of high school. He held offers from Oregon and Washington, in addition to Ohio State (real, or Holtmann doing favors?), before choosing to focus exclusively on football. But I bet the big man can still hoop.
Although Tuimoloau played multiple positions in HS, I am sticking him at center. At 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, how could I not? He would never be the tallest player on the court, but I bet he would consistently be the strongest.
A lethal combination of skill and size, my squad is a bunch of game-wreckers. I would legitimately take them over dozens of starting fives currently playing college basketball... but not Holtmann’s. I believe the salmon-suited coach will get his guys rolling once again. So this was fun, but it will be more fun when the actual Buckeye roundballers get back to chalking up dubs.
I echo Josh’s sentiment that, while I admire C.J. Stroud’s confidence, I dont think the football team could beat the basketball in a regulation game. Could they maybe pick up a dub in a 5-on-5 pickup game if the shots are falling? Sure, anything could happen! At the end of the day these are all D1 athletes, mind you. But I maintain the thought that for as poorly as the Buckeyes’ mens hoops team has performed as of late, replacing the roster with players from the football team is likely not the best option.
Still, it’s fun to try and put a team together, so let’s do it.
Point Guard: C.J. Stroud
His quote that begin re-circulating from last year is basically the whole reason for us doing this exercise, and if Josh is going to let me have him, then I'll certainly take the two-time Heisman finalist on my team. After all, Stroud credits his approach to playing quarterback to his experience on the basketball court, as hoops was his first love. The quarterback position and the point guard position seem to go hand-in-hand, and the skills likely translate pretty well as both function as the distributors on the offensive end.
Plus, he wasn't lying — that jumper is silky.
Shooting Guard: Xavier Johnson
Your shooting guard needs to be able to do a little bit of everything, and who knows playing that style better than the X-man. Before he became a walk-on-turned-scholarship do-it-all guy for the Ohio State football team, he was tearing it up for Summit Country Day High School down in Cincinnati. A four-year starter in basketball, Johnson received D1 scholarship offers in both football and basketball. Ill gladly take the slasher at my two-guard spot.
Small Forward: Josh Proctor
I want an athletic, vocal leader right in the middle of my starting lineup, and Proctor fits that bill. When he wasn’t functioning as one of the top players on the football team Owasso High School in Oklahoma, he was one of the team’s leading scorers. As his head coach describes, Proctor is a guy that brought a lot of fire to the floor — something we’ve seen as well in his time at Ohio State with his hard-hitting style of play at the safety spot.
Power Forward: Marvin Harrison Jr.
This is a bit of a luxury pick for me. To my knowledge, Harrison Jr. didn’t play much basketball in high school. Despite loving the game, the stud receiver realized early on that football was his true calling — much like his father. Still, it is far too tantalizing to not take the guy who is 6-foot-4 and moves like a gazelle. I’m sure he can figure out a way to turn his smooth route-running skills into finding a lane to the basket. He’s a freak athlete, and so if he can shoot the ball even a little bit, he will be an incredibly valuable member of my hardwood team.
Center: Dawand Jones
Even if Dawand Jones had never picked up a basketball in his life, I still wouldn’t taken him as my center as a 6-foot-8, 359-pound hulking presence of a man. Luckily for me, that isn’t the case, as in addition to his size, Jones was a force of nature on the court. As a junior at Ben Davis High School in Indiana, Jones averaged 18.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. His skills as a basketball player are likely what allowed him to translate his size to the football field, as his footwork on the court carried over to his footwork as an offensive lineman.
I think overall this team would fare pretty darn well. All of them outside of Harrison Jr. have prior experience as high-end basketball players at the high school level, and this group features really good size across the board. I’m not sure my five could take down the actual starting five for the Buckeyes’ mens hoops team, but in a pickup setting with no fouls they might be able to hold their own.
They would definitely run laps around teams in intramurals at the RPAC, I know that for sure.