Buckeyes Striving for Balance

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Last updated: 10/30/2013 5:31 AM
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Men's Basketball
Buckeyes Hoping to be Different in 2013
By John Porentas

COLUMBUS, Ohio - It's going to be a little different kind of Buckeye team this year when compared to the last few of seasons.

In 2009 the Buckeyes relied on Evan Turner for scoring. It wasn't a tough decision. All he did was win recognition as the best in the land. Along the way he averaged 20.4 points per game.

The following two seasons saw the arrival of Jared Sullinger to the lineup, and Sully delivered points, lots of them, to carry Thad Matta's offense for two season. Though to be honest, he got a fair amount of help in 2010 from a senior class that included Jon Diebler and David Lighty. Sullinger averaged a team-high 17.2 points per game in 2010, then followed up with 17.5 per outing in 2011.

Last season, Deshaun Thomas averaged 19.8 per game, nearly twice what OSU's second-leading scorer Aaron Craft produced at 10.0 points per game.

So who will be OSU's big scorer this year? The Buckeyes are hoping that the answer to that question is nobody.

"I don't think we're going to have one person that is going to score most the points in the game," said returning point guard Shannon Scott.

"I think we have enough good scorers to keep everybody honest and teams are going to have to guard everybody, not just the one guy."

OSU Head Coach Thad Matta is totally on board with that idea.

"I'm kind of hoping there's going to be a couple of guys (he can rely on for scoring)," Matta said on OSU media day.

"We put a big premium on shooting, offense, passing, probably more so than we have in the past. I'd like to have that great balance.

"If LaQuinton can get 20 points a game, great, but the best team we've ever had here was 15, 14, 13, 12, 11 and 10. I think having balance with this team will be great."

"We have a team that can be very balanced," agreed senior point guard Aaron Craft.

"We don't have a guy like Deshaun. LaQuinton has done a great job of not filling that void but taking bits and pieces out and making it his own. But as a whole we've done a better job of shooting a higher percentage. Whether that translates further into the games, we'll find out."

The advantages of a balanced team are many. As Scott said, the opposition won't be able to shut down the Buckeyes by taking away one player.

There's more to it though. The Buckeyes will be both athletic and deep this year. They are going to want to run, and that means a deeper rotation. That in turn means reduced court time for everybody, and therefore reduced scoring for any one player. Balance becomes a necessity under those circumstances, but that shouldn't be a problem.

"We're going to be so deep," said senior guard Lenzelle Smith.

"I think we'll have an 8, 9, 10-man rotation this year. I think everyone will see the court and it will be about going out there and giving your all when you're in the game and making an impact.

"That's going to be big for us this year.

"I think it's going to be exciting and keep guys fresh and we won't have those breakdowns toward the end of the season we've been known to have with guys wearing down and tired. I think this year is going to be exciting because we should have a team that if we keep our rotations right we should have guys ready to play at the end of the season when we're going to need it."

Smith's vision of the long bench includes newcomers Mark Loving and Kam Williams, both of whom have impressed the upper classmen.

"Mark Loving and Kam Williams is another guard right now that can score the ball pretty well," said Smith.

"I'm excited to see him this year. They're kind of in the hot seat that Amedeo was in last year but Amedeo has made pretty big strides this year to make his debut on the team this year. I think Amedeo established himself as a pretty good player now. I think these two freshmen are quickly doing the same thing."

One of the things lacking last year was a consistent scoring presence in the post. If OSU wants to be balanced they will have to get some post scoring to force defenses to collapse on the post when the ball is thrown in there, thus freeing up the perimeter players. Centers Amir Williams and Trey McDonald both say they have worked on their offense since last season ended.

"Just become more of a presence inside the post, give us a scoring presence down there," Williams said in describing his new role in the offense.

"Just try to be more aggressive at the offensive end. Last season we didn't throw the ball into the post that much but that's something we've been preaching since May, June and July. I've been working on having some go-to moves and stuff like that and trying to be more dominant in the post."

Key Returners -

G Aaron Craft (6-2, 195, Sr) - Averaged 10.0 ppg game last year as OSU's point guard and defensive stopper. Registered 77 steals and 172 assists last year. One of the top defenders in the nation.

G Lenzelle Smith (6-4, 210, Sr.) - Strong both defensively and as a rebounder. Averaged 9.2 points per game last year. His 178 rebounds was second only to Thomas' 220. Has the size and length to guard the two or three positions, and at times even the four.

F LaQuinton Ross (6-8, 220, Jr.) - Came on strong at the end of last season. Has the potential to be a big scorer from both outside and inside. Has good size at 6-8. Tremendous upside. Ability to hit from three and put it on the floor to create his own shot.

F Sam Thompson (6-7, 200) - OSU's dunk machine may be one of the most athletic players in the country. Shot a surprising 40 percent from three last year. Has worked on putting the ball on the floor to create his own shot. Thad Matta has said that he has the potential to be one of the best ever to wear the Scarlet and Gray.

G Shannon Scott (6-1, 185) - May be an even better on-ball defender that Craft. Probably the quickest of the Buckeyes. Seemed to find himself last season after struggling his freshman year. One of the best rebounding point guards in the nation despite his size. Has every potential to have breakout year, especially if the Buckeyes play up tempo as expected.

C Amir Williams (6-11, 250) - A big man who has yet to reach his potential. Showed flashes last season but lacked consistency. Is in the best shape of his life this year and could supply the Buckeyes with the post presence they lacked last year. Has good shot blocking ability as well.

G Amedeo Della Valle (6-5, 190, So.) - Returns for his second season after a year of acclimatizing. From Italy, is reputed to be a deadly outside shooter. Played well for the Italian national team over the summer and could be the outside shooting threat the Buckeyes need.

C Trey McDonald (6-8, 240, So) - Doesn't have the size of Williams but is more athletic. Will be able to run with the Buckeyes if they do go up tempo and will be able to spell Williams when he needs a blow.

Newcomers -

F Mark Loving (6-7, 215, Fr.) - At 6-7 will be welcome relief at forward. Is reputed to be a good shooter and a three-point threat. Solid rebounder as well.

G Kam Williams (6-2, 175) - A pure scorer who can shoot it and put it on the floor. Very athletic.

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