Men’s basketball staff attracts another highly-rated class

COLUMBUS, Ohio – When Thad Matta took over the Ohio State men’s basketball program in the summer of 2004 he immediately began recruiting student-athletes to improve the program’s future. The first player to make a commitment to the Buckeyes that summer had yet to begin his first year of high school.

B.J. Mullens, a local prep star currently playing for Canal Winchester High School in suburban Columbus, had just completed the 8th grade when Matta saw him for the first time. At 7-feet, 260-pounds, Mullens stood out physically enough to earn a scholarship offer more than four years before he could wear an Ohio State uniform.

Mullens accepted and signed officially along with three other highly-touted student athletes during the NCAA early signing period, which started Wednesday.

“We are excited with the four student-athletes we have signed,” Matta said. “We filled needs at four positions. We think these guys are all going to be great additions to our program as people and players.”

William Buford, an all-everything guard from Toledo (Ohio) Libbey High School, Anthony Crater, one of the nation’s top-rated point guards, and Walter Offutt, a guard from Indianapolis Warren Central High School who is in the running for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball honors in 2008, joined Mullens in becoming Buckeyes Thursday.

Buford (6-6, 190) earned first team all-state accolades as a junior. He was a member of the All-Toledo Blade squad and was the Blade Player of the Year following the 2006-07 season.

He averaged 28 points and 12 rebounds and three assists for the 21-2 Cowboys a season ago. Libbey fell to Toledo St. John’s 75-70 in the Toledo Regional finals last year to end its season. Libbey won the Toledo City League with a 19-1 regular-season record and finished 2007 ranked No. 3 in the state.

Buford was a second team all-state honoree as a sophomore after he averaged 22.7 points and 10 rebounds per game.

“William is a long, athletic wing who can score in a variety of ways,” Matta said. “He shoots the ball well from outside, drives and finishes around the basket and gets to the foul line.”

Crater (6-1, 170) averaged 10 assists as a high school freshman in leading Flint (Mich.) Southwestern Academy to the city championship. As a sophomore and junior he led the Knights to the Michigan Class B final four. A two-time all state performer, he averaged 12.7 points and 9.8 assists as a sophomore and 16.2 points and just over eight assists as a junior. He was voted the Class B Player of the Year by the Associated Press following his junior year.

SWA finished with identical 24-3 records in 2006 and 2007, falling to Detroit Renaissance in 2006 and East Grand Rapids in 2007. Both losses were in the Class B Semifinals at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. Crater transferred to Brewster Academy (N.H.) last summer and will complete his high school eligibility at the prep school.

“Anthony is a true point guard,” Matta said. “He possesses great speed, he’s a tremendous passer and is extremely athletic.”

Offutt (6-3, 180) averaged 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.1 steals as a junior. He has amassed 824 career points, 295 rebounds, 240 assists and 136 steals in three seasons at Warren Central. With a season to play, he has a chance to become the school’s career leader in all four statistical categories.

He was named All-Marion County and All-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference three years in a row vs. quality competition. Offutt plays in the same conference that produced former Buckeyes Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. (Lawrence North), current Portland Trail Blazers forward Josh McRoberts (Carmel) and Indiana University freshman Eric Gordon (North Central).

“Walter, like all the new guys, is a terrific athlete,” Matta said. “He is a tough combo guard. He has great range and is a guy we feel like will be an outstanding defender at Ohio State.”

Mullens’ junior season ended in the Columbus District Championships at the Fairgrounds Coliseum to Columbus Beechcroft, 73-48. Mullens had 20 points in the loss. He scored 608 points as a junior for an average of 26 points a game for the 16-7 Indians.

He scored a season-high 42 points in a loss to Amanda Clearcreek Jan. 12, 2007. Over the 23 games as a junior he scored 25 or more points 14 times with 30 or more seven times.

“B.J. is extremely athletic for a guy his size,” Matta said. “He has demonstrated great touch around the basket and can step out and shoot the ball as well. We also expect him to be a valuable rebounder and shot blocker.”

2008 Ohio State Men’s Basketball Recruiting Class

Name Ht. Wt. Pos. Hometown High School
William Buford 6-6 190 G Toledo, Ohio Libbey
B.J. Mullens 7-0 260 C Columbus, Ohio Canal Winchester
Anthony Crater 6-1 170 G Flint, Mich. Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy
Walter Offutt 6-3 180 G Indianapolis Warren Central