Buckeyes Open Season at St. John
The 2008-09 Ohio State men’s basketball season opens officially Nov. 20 at St. John Arena against Delaware State (6:30 p.m./Big Ten Network). Ohio State returns to the longtime home of the Buckeyes because of a conflict at Value City Arena, Ohio State’s homecourt since the 1998-99 season. The Buckeyes have an all-time record of 429-151 (.740) over 42 seasons (1957-1998) at St. John plus three games played there since the move to the VCA. Ohio State played two games last year at St. John, a regular-season win vs. Virginia Military (90-57/Nov. 25, 2007) and a victory vs. California (73-56) in the second round of the 2008 NIT March 24. More than 6.6 million fans have attended games at the 13,276-seat venue.
Tickets available for opener
A sellout crowd of 13,276 watched Ohio State defeat California last season at St. John Arena as the Buckeyes were making their run toward the 2008 NIT Championship. Fans will again have the chance to watch a game at the historic venue when Delaware State takes on the Buckeyes Nov. 20. To order tickets fans should go online at http://www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com/ or purchase tickets in person at the Ohio State Athletics Ticket Office in the southeast rotunda of Value City Arena near the corner of Lane Avenue and Olentangy River Road.
Kecman to miss 12 games
Sophomore transfer Nikola Kecman will miss the first 12 regular-season games to satisfy an NCAA penalty for playing on a team in his native Serbia before coming to the United States. The NCAA determined the team provided some players (not Kecman) with benefits above necessary expenses. Kecman, who did not benefit for playing for the team, is required to sit out two games for every one he played (6) for the foreign team.
Redd Represents Ohio State at 2008 Olympics
Michael Redd, who played for the Buckeyes from 1998-2000, represented Ohio State and his native Columbus on the United States senior national team at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. Redd is the third Buckeye to play on the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team. Jerry Lucas (1960-62) played on the 1960 squad and Bill Hosket (1966-68) represented Ohio State on the 1968 team. Lucas, Hosket and Redd all helped the United States earn gold medals. Redd and the 2008 U.S. squad claimed gold with a win over Spain.
Thad Matta added another “M” to his coaching staff with the addition of Brandon Miller, who left his alma mater, Butler, to return to the Ohio State staff as an assistant coach. Miller was the Buckeyes’ director of basketball operations for two seasons (2005, 2006) and the Ohio State video coordinator (2007) before returning to Butler, where he graduated in 2003, as a full-time assistant for the 2007-08 season. Miller replaces John Groce, who left for the head coaching job at Ohio last summer. The entire Ohio State coaching staff is listed under “M” in the athletics department staff director. Alan Major is in his fifth season in Columbus and Archie Miller, no relation to Brandon, is in his second season as a Buckeye assistant coach.
Newcomers Dominate Ohio State Roster in 2008-09
Thad Matta is no stranger to retooling when it comes to his roster. In the last three years his teams have had four new starters each season with point guard Jamar Butler being the only mainstay. With Butler gone after a remarkable four-year career, Matta welcomes eight new faces to the Ohio State program this season. Four scholarship freshmen, two junior college transfers, another transfer from a four-year NCAA Division I school and a walk-on join eight returnees from the 2007-08 campaign. As has been the case over the last four years, Matta recruited some of the nation’s most talented high school student-athletes in William Buford (Toledo, Ohio), Anthony Crater (Flint, Mich.), B.J. Mullens (Columbus, Ohio) and Walter Offutt (Indianapolis). From the JC ranks, the Buckeyes welcome junior Jeremie Simmons (Chicago) and Nikola Kecman, a sophomore from Belgrade, Serbia. Zisis Sarikopoulos, a transfer from Alabama-Birmingham and native of Athens, Greece, will join Ohio State for the start of fall camp in September. J.J. Grycko, a freshman forward from Cincinnati, Ohio, was added to the roster as a walk-on at the start of Ohio State’s fall quarter.
Lighty to Provide Experience
It was not long ago it seems that David Lighty was a newcomer alongside one of Ohio State’s finest recruiting classes of all-time. He was one of Matta’s first complete recruiting classes in 2006 along with Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Daequan Cook and Othello Hunter. Three of those players (Oden, Conley and Cook) played in the National Basketball Association after their freshman year. Hunter achieved that goal with the Atlanta Hawks after two terrific seasons at Ohio State (2007-08). Lighty returns for his junior year as Ohio State’s top returning scorer (9.0 ppg.) from last season. He also has the most career games played (76) and starts (44) of any returning Buckeye. He continues to improve and is expected to lead a young Ohio State team, with no scholarship seniors this season. Eleven of the 12 players on scholarship who are eligible to play in 2008-09 have just one year of playing experience or are newcomers in Columbus. Lighty has two. Transfer Zisis Sarikopoulos is on scholarship but will sit out the 2008-09 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.
Buford, Mullens Add to Ohio State’s McDonald’s list
William Buford and B.J. Mullens represented Ohio State and the nation’s top high school recruits March 29 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wis., in the 2008 McDonald’s All-American game. Buford played for the East team and Mullens for the West. Thad Matta has added a total of five McDonald’s All-Americans to the Buckeye men’s basketball program in his four years in Columbus. Twelve Buckeyes have been associated with the annual event. Four McDonald’s All-Americans were a part of Ohio State’s 2006-07 squad that finished 35-4 overall, 15-1 in Big Ten Conference play, won the league regular-season title outright and played for the NCAA national title vs. Florida in April of 2007. Ivan Harris, Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., and Daequan Cook, all former McDonald’s All-Americans, played for the Buckeyes in 2006-07. Clark Kellogg (1979), Perry Carter (1987), Treg Lee (1987), Jim Jackson (1989), Charles Macon (1992) and Greg Simpson (1992) all played for Ohio State after playing in the McDonald’s All-American game. Harris played in the 2003 event while Oden, Conley Jr. and Cook played in the 2006 contest.
Depth, full roster provide Options for Matta
Jamar Butler ran the point for the Buckeyes exclusively as a sophomore and senior while sharing the post with Mike Conley Jr. in 2006-07. Butler averaged 36 minutes a game as a senior and more than 30 minutes over 139 career appearances, an Ohio State record for career games played. Matta hopes to rotate personnel more in 2008-09 at the guard position and throughout the lineup with a full roster of 13-scholarship players and the availability of three walkons. Only transfer Zisis Sarikopoulos will be unavailable this season as he sits out to satisfy NCAA transfer rules after playing one season at UAB last year.
Inexperience will be prevalent at the point guard position but there are options. Freshman Anthony Crater, junior college transfer Jeremie Simmons and returnee P.J. Hill all will vie for playing time. Crater is closest to a true point guard with the ability to create shots for others while finding openings to get to the basket. Simmons was a scorer at the JC level but also has proven abilities at running the offense. Hill subbed for Butler a year ago and displayed the ability to get to the basket while creating chances for his teammates.
At the wing position, Ohio State will feature its most experience. David Lighty, Evan Turner and Jon Diebler all return while freshmen William Buford and Walter Offutt bring impressive high school statistics to the table. The depth at this position will make for intense competition throughout the year.
Inside play will feature the nation’s top recruit, freshman B.J. Mullens, a 7-0 skilled offensive player with rebounding and shot blocking abilities. He will battle alongside sophomore returnee Dallas Lauderdale, who has made strides physically over the summer and will likely make his presence felt defensively with his size, length and leaping ability. Newcomer Nikola Kecman, a sophomore junior college transfer, also provides size at 6-8 with outside shooting abilities. Another returnee, Kyle Madsen also will see time down low after spending two years in the program as a transfer from Vanderbilt.
Non-conference schedule to ready Buckeyes for Big Ten
A young Ohio State team will be tested several times in non-conference action before opening a grueling 18-game Big Ten conference slate. The Buckeyes take on Miami (Fla.) on the road in the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Later that week, Ohio State travels to Indianapolis to face Notre Dame, one of four schools from the state of Indiana on the 2008-09 schedule. The ND game will be part of a doubleheader at Lucas Oil Stadium, the new home of the Indianapolis Colts. Indiana and Gonzaga make up the second game of the event. Butler University, alma mater of both Ohio State head coach Thad Matta and assistant coach Brandon Miller, travels to Columbus for the third game of a four-game series with the Bulldogs. West Virginia, coached by longtime Cincinnati coach and former Ohio State assistant Bob Huggins, begins a home-and-home series with the Buckeyes at Value City Arena in late December. Conference play begins in early January. Ohio State will face eight league teams twice with Wisconsin (in Madison) and Penn State (in Columbus) taking on the Buckeyes once this year.
Buckeyes Among Nation’s elite teams with Matta at helm
The Buckeyes have won at least 20 games in each of the four seasons with Thad Matta as head coach. The 2006-07 squad won a school-record 35 games on its way to the NCAA title game. The 2007-08 team won 24 games and claimed the 2008 National Invitation Tournament championship. In the last three years, Matta’s Buckeyes have 85 wins against just 23 setbacks, the seventh best win total and win percentage (.797) nationally over the last three seasons.
Best Winning Percentage,
last 3 seasons (2006-08)
Memphis 104 10 .912
Kansas 95 16 .856
UCLA 97 17 .851
North Carolina 90 18 .833
Florida 92 23 .800
Duke 82 21 .796
Ohio State 85 23 .787