Buckeyes to Face Ohio Talent that Got Away
By Rob Ogden
Ohio-made talent is thriving in the Big Ten, unfortunately for Ohio State, though, most of it isn't doing so for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State will face at least two Ohio-grown products this weekend when the Buckeyes travel to Wisconsin.
Badgers' starting point guard Traevon Jackson hails not only from Ohio, but from Columbus. He went to Westerville South High School, and is the son of Ohio State great Jim Jackson.
Freshman Nigel Hayes, of Toledo Whitmer, is averaging more than 16 minutes of the bench for coach Bo Ryan.
Some in-state talent will always find its way out of The Heart of it All. But peculiar is the amount that has.
Consider this, two of the Buckeyes' main Big Ten rivals, Wisconsin and Michigan State, each have as many native Ohioans on their roster as Ohio State does: three.
Both Wisconsin and Michigan State, as well as Big Ten contenders Michigan and Iowa, start the same amount of Ohio players as Ohio State: one.
So what gives?
"It's random," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "It's kind of luck of the draw sometimes."
But Matta likely sometimes wishes things would have fallen differently.
All four of the Ohio starters starting outside Ohio rank in the top 27 in the Big Ten in scoring.
Combined, they average more than 13 points per game.
Those four players are Michigan State's Adreian Payne (Dayton), Iowa's Aaron White (Strongsville), Michigan's Caris LeVert (Pickerington) and the aforementioned Jackson.
The lone Buckeye-state starter for the Buckeyes is Aaron Craft.
Freshman Marc Loving (Toledo) and walk-on Jake Lorbach (Elyria) are the other Ohio players on the roster.
But Matta isn't averse to recruiting Ohio.
During Craft's freshman year of 2010-2011, when the Buckeyes went 34-3, all five of the team's starters, plus Craft – the sixth man – were from Ohio.
It was that year, at age 15, that Loving committed to the Buckeyes.
"Growing up watching guys like Evan Turner and Michael Conley, it made it very easy for me to commit here so early when I had the opportunity," he said. "It was fun watching guys come through this program."
Loving has a clear sense of pride in his home state – he has an Ohio-shaped tattoo on his left bicep. Matta said he would like to instill that in every recruit in Ohio, but added that technology has made accessing out-of-state players so much easier than it ever was before.
"College basketball has become global. You can see anybody any time and read about anybody any time that you want to," he said. "But I hope that there's a level of pride in the state of Ohio, and kids are more perceptive in that regard."
As for the ones that got away, sometimes the fit wasn't right, or there wasn't a spot.
Payne was a preseason all-conference selection this year, but was outshone at the time of his recruitment by Northland's Jared Sullinger.
The same can be said for former Michigan guard Trey Burke, who won the Wooden Award as the nation's most outstanding player a year ago. He wasn't as highly regarded as Shannon Scott.
With Wisconsin's Hayes, it just wasn't a great fit, Matta said.
"He's a very, very intelligent kid and obviously he's having a great year," he said. "I think he was kind of looking at what he viewed as the best situation for him to go in at an early age and make an impact."
The 6-foot-7 forward is averaging 6.8 points per game, and Ryan is glad to have him.
"He is such a delight to be around and yet when he competes, everything else goes out the window," Ryan said. "He competes as hard as anybody we've ever had.
"We just liked everything about him. There's really not much that he doesn't bring to us."
The Buckeyes are about to get awful familiar with their Ohio counterparts, as three of their next four games are against Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan.
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