Two-Minute Drill: Inside OSU Basketball Media Day
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was no Jared Sullinger on Thursday. Not William Buford either.
After making a run to the Final Four in New Orleans a year ago – and coming within a possession of playing for the national championship – the Ohio State men’s basketball team will look a lot different in year No. 9 for head coach Thad Matta.
We caught up with Matta and his players on OSU Basketball Media Day at the Schottenstein Center on Thursday.
Who’s Going to Start?
* Matta wouldn't name a starting lineup, but it sounds like Evan Ravenel and Sam Thompson are probably in the driver's seat.
* Matta said the best defensive players will start, but it seems clear Rav is ahead of Amir right now, although Matta spoke highly of Amir.
* Matta said one way of thinking is to have his guys play tight on the perimeter and funnel guys to Amir in the paint. If Amir gets in foul trouble, he feels comfortable going to Ravenel or even Trey McDonald.
* Matta said it's not as important who starts. If guys just want to hear their names when they take the court, they've got the wrong idea.
* Real question is who will be on the court in the second half when the game is on the line. That's what this team needs to find out.
Deshaun Being Deshaun
* Deshaun Thomas said he was "very close" to turning pro after the season, but felt he still needed to get better.
* Thomas said he has really worked hard on his ball-handling this offseason and on becoming a leader for the younger guys.
* I asked Aaron Craft about Deshaun Thomas the leader, he laughed and said, "Yeah, that actually exists now."
* Thomas lost some weight this offseason, and Matta said he is moving around a lot better, getting more lift on his jump shots.
* Thomas said he also worked on his defense and passing because he wants to be a complete basketball player when he goes to the next level. He told me he's even throwing alley-oops to Amir Williams in practice.
* Matta said thing that's impressed him the most with Deshaun is how he sees the whole picture now. Understands how everything is connected.
* Thomas said he thinks he can average over 20 points per game and be an All-American, but it will require a team effort.
The Disruptive Duo
* Matta also had a lot of good things to say about Shannon Scott. Called him one of the most athletic guys on the team.
* He said Scott didn't really get to show his athleticism last year because he wasn't comfortable with the ball or the style of offense.
* The Buckeyes want to have a much faster pace about them this year, and Matta said Scott goes end to end as quick as any player he's coached.
* Matta said he called Scott the most disruptive defensive player in the country this year. Joked that Craft is second. Said Scott had 8 steals in a 40 minute scrimmage and he looks much more comfortable than he did last year.
* Matta said matchups will dictate how much they play Scott and Craft together, but said Craft is a much better shooter now.
* Scott admitted to me he never quite felt comfortable last year. Worked with Chris Jent on his jumper, but also on floaters this offseason. He and Sam Thompson were in the gym a lot together working with Jent. He changed their shooting motions.
* Thompson said he used to pull his jumper across his body. Now it's more compact. Feels better and it's going in.
* Scott told me their goal was to make sure defenders could not play off either of them this year without getting a jumper in their face.
The Art of Being Aaron Craft
* Craft told me the No. 1 thing he worked on this offseason is being more aggressive offensively.
* Craft said there were too many times last year where he came down the floor and never even looked at the basket.
* He's worked on his jumper and getting to the basket, but mainly just being more aggressive. Attacking the defense.
* Craft said this team can't dwell on the loss to Kansas but they have to use it as motivation.
* Craft said it's in his nature to let it stick with him. Always thinks how many possessions he gave away in a one-possession game.
* Scott told me Craft hates to lose, even in practice. He always wants the ball at the end. If his team loses, he calls for a rematch.
The Legend of LaQuinton Ross
* Spent a good amount of time talking to LaQuinton Ross. You can tell he's excited. He admitted that he felt like he was making good strides last summer, but when he got back the team was on a whole different level.
* Ross said he was frustrated with the fact he wasn't playing at first, but now he completely understands it.
* Ross said the team had completely come together and everything was flowing. He came back and didn't even know the terminology.
* Guys would call out screens and he wouldn't know what to do. Or he'd come off a pick and roll and get trapped because he missed a call.
* Ross said he feels like a completely different player now. Feels comfortable and has worked on his defense this offseason.
* Ross said he and Deshaun Thomas are usually on different teams in practice because they're the two best scorers on the team.
* Ross said he thinks they can play together, though, because they both create mismatches. Hard to defend both guys at the same time.
* Sam Thompson said Thomas is a little more dangerous in the post, but Ross has more of a perimeter game. Better ball-handling.
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