Matta Nets Big Haul on Signing Day
By Rob Ogden
Thad Matta had a grin on his face as he sat down to answer questions about his newly signed class of 2014.
"I had a good feeling about this one," he said.
Wednesday, Matta inked a four-man class that is currently regarded by many as one of the top five in the nation.
The class of early signees includes two forwards, a center and a guard, and is headlined by D'Angelo Russell, a 6-foot-5 guard out of Louisville, Ky.
Russell, a consensus five-star prospect, averaged 12.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game during his junior season.
"He's got the ability to make big-time shots with the basketball in his hands. He's won a national championship as a high school player," Matta said about Russell. "He’s got something about him. He takes and makes big shots. He wants the ball in his hands at crucial points in the game. He is very complete."
Keita Bates-Diop, another consensus five-star prospect, became the first to commit to the class nearly a year ago.
The 6-foot-7, 185 pound forward averaged 18.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks last season.
Bates-Diop, out of Normal Ill., was a first-team All-State selection by the Associated Press in 2012 and 2013.
“You’re getting a long, 6-8 athlete that can really shoot the basketball," Matta said. "From the standpoint of playing multiple positions, he scores, he passes, he rebounds, he can defend and he can handle the basketball."
Six-foot-five Jae'sean Tate committed the day after Bates-Diop did last year. Listed as a forward, Tate averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Matta said he was capable of defending all five positions.
Tate, out of Pickerington Central, is the son of former Ohio State and Cincinnati center Jermaine Tate, and helped lead Central to the OHSAA Division I State Championship as a sophomore in 2012.
“Everybody asks me what position is Jae’Sean, and I always answer them saying, ‘I don’t know, but I know he’s going to be on the floor,'" Matta said. "He’s a warrior. He’s got a great first step, and he can guard all five positions on the floor. We're getting a great player."
David Bell, a 6-foot-10 center out of Garfield Heights is the final member of the class.
Bell averaged 17.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.6 blocks as a junior and is a consensus three-star prospect.
“He hasn’t been playing basketball like a lot of guys for a long time," Matta said. "He’s 6-9, he’s long, he’s athletic. He’s one of those kids that wants to be at Ohio State. We’ll bring his skill along, but he runs the floor, he blocks shots, he rebounds out of his area.”
The Buckeyes will lose point guard Aaron Craft and shooting guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. to graduation following this season.
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