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Established October 31, 1996
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Last updated: 10/23/2011 11:52 AM

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Men's Basketball
What Will the Buckeyes Look Like: On the Wing
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — One of Thad Matta’s claims to fame during his time at Ohio State has been the revolving door of highly recruited big men who have come through the program since 2004.

His real identity ought to be about producing long, athletic wings that defend the perimeter at every position. Two years ago the Buckeyes surrounded Dallas Lauderdale with David Lighty, William Buford, Jon Diebler and Evan Turner. That is a lot of length and shot-contesting ability on the perimeter.

The 2011 Buckeyes will be a little different.

Replacing David Lighty

David Lighty
Photo by Jim Davidson
David Lighty

The biggest difference this year will be the absence of super-defender, crazy-glue guy David Lighty. It seemed like Lighty had been at Ohio State since the days of Fred Taylor, so there will be some adjustment for the Buckeyes on the wing.

Lighty was known for his defense, and that is what will be missed most on the court. He was a strong on-ball defender and even better in schemes where he could move around and make plays. Maybe the thing they will miss most about his defense is his ability to defend anyone from a point guard to a power forward.

They will also miss his contagious smile and laid back persona in the locker room, but there is where William Buford comes in. Buford is never going to replace Lighty’s defense, but the team’s lone senior has to be the guy who keeps things loose in the locker room.

On the court, the Buckeyes will ask Jordan Sibert to step up and help to replace Lighty from a defensive standpoint. It won’t happen over night, but the Buckeyes will also hope to get some defensive help from Lenzelle Smith and J.D. Weatherspoon.

Weatherspoon said Thad Matta plans to ask him to defend both threes and fours this season because of his length and leaping ability. That is a great plan, but we have yet to see anything Weatherspoon can do other than throw down monstrous dunks.

Considering Matta likes to keep his best 5-6 guys on the court, it doesn’t seem likely Smith and Weatherspoon will see much playing time…until they earn it.

Where Does Deshaun Fit?

Deshaun Thomas
Photo by Jim Davidson
Deshaun Thomas

Maybe the biggest question facing Ohio State this season will be where Deshaun Thomas fits into the offense. He was a shot a minute (OK, maybe per second) guy off the bench last season, but there is a good chance the Buckeyes will ask him to step into the starting lineup this fall.

At 6-7, 225 pounds, Thomas can play the small or power forward positions and in high school he was a guy who could score from anywhere on the floor. He shot only 33 percent from behind the arc last season, but he has a great-looking stroke that should only continue to improve as he gets more comfortable with his playing time and his role within Matta’s game plan.

Thomas is also an incredible offensive rebounder who can score easy baskets around the rim. His 62 offensive rebounds were the second-most on the team behind Jared Sullinger (131) last year and that was playing only 14 minutes per game.

It’s feasible, if not probable, that Thomas will be Ohio State’s No. 2 rebounder this season. It’s also possible the Buckeyes will only go as he can take them. If Thomas has matured as much as Matta suggests, he could hold the key to Ohio State’s NCAA Tournament hopes. If he’s not ready to play a major role, the Buckeyes could struggle offensively at times.

William Being William

William Buford
Photo by Jim Davidson
William Buford

Even if Thomas is ready to play big minutes this season, he is still their third scoring option behind Sullinger and William Buford. The senior out of Toledo averaged nearly 15 points per game last season, but really turned it on in the post-season before that collapse against Kentucky.

That 2-for-16 shooting performance seems to have really motivated Buford, but more than anything it probably humbled him. Scoring has always come easy for William. Almost too easy. In high school it was almost a joke. In college it was always a simple matter of touches. With guys like Diebler, Sullinger and Evan Turner surrounding him, the number of shots available has been the only limit to Buford’s offense.

He will still be Ohio State’s No. 2 option this year, but Buford should have much more freedom to take over games as a senior. They will need him to without Diebler around. He was good for 3-4 wins by himself last season.

Losing LaQuinton Ross

One thing the Buckeyes will need to develop in the early season is some instant offense off the bench. That guy figured to be LaQuinton Ross, but the 6-8 small forward out of New Jersey was ruled a non-qualifier by the NCAA last month.

Ross was an excellent scorer in high school with the ability to shoot from outside and get to the basket. He also has the ability to create his own shot off the dribble, but there is no guarantee he would have been able to hone in his skills enough to make more of an impact than Deshaun Thomas did last season.

It is still possible Ross could return to Ohio State in January if he gets his academic affairs in order, but right now the Buckeyes have to move forward without him. That means they could ask freshman Sam Thompson to step in and give them a few minutes.

Sam Thompson
Photo by Dan Harker
Sam Thompson

Thompson is a 6-7 forward out of Chicago who averaged 17.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game as a senior at Whitney Young High School. He is a versatile player who can score, pass and penetrate. He can also block some shots (averaged 3.3 a game as a senior) and fits what Matta likes out of a wing player.

His size and hometown have caused some—including his club coach Mike Irvin—to make early comparisons to Evan Turner , but that might not be far off. Evan Turner early in his career that is. How Thompson develops will be up to him. Turner was an extremely hard worker who got better and better and better every game.

Projected Starting Five (2 of 3)

0 Jared Sullinger (6-9, 265, So.)
1 Deshaun Thomas (6-7, 225, So.)
44 William Buford (6-6, 220, Sr.)
2 Jordan Sibert (6-4, 185, So.)
4 Aaron Craft (6-2, 190, So.)

Part one - Buckeye Big Men

*Check back with the-Ozone.net tomorrow for Part 3 of our look at the Ohio State men’s basketball team.

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