Back for his ninth season as the Ohio State men’s basketball coach, Thad Matta will unveil his 2012-13 team tonight with his squad’s annual exhibition game against Walsh at Value City Arena (7 p.m., BTN.com).
Deshaun Thomas pegged as AP preseason All-American
Matta has three starters returning from last year’s 31-8 team that won a share of the Big Ten regular season championship and advanced to the NCAA Final Four in New Orleans. They include power forward Deshaun Thomas, point guard Aaron Craft and shooting guard Lenzelle Smith Jr., who are all juniors. Thomas was named an Associated Press first-team preseason All-American on Monday.
The remaining starting spots appear to be between senior Evan Ravenel and soph Amir Williams at center and a pair of sophomores in Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross on the wing. Rounding out the roster are sophomore guard Shannon Scott, sophomore PF Trey McDonald, freshman guard Amedeo Della Valle, junior guard Alex Rogers (a former walk-on) and walk-ons Andrew Goldstein and Jake Lorbach.
OSU lost two starters off last year’s squad in All-American center Jared Sullinger and wing William Buford, who left in a third-place tie on the school’s career scoring list.
The Buckeyes are ranked fourth in both the preseason Associated Press media poll and the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. But the Buckeyes were picked third behind Indiana and Michigan in the Big Ten preseason media poll. (Thomas and Craft were each selected as preseason All-Big Ten picks by the media.)
OSU will host Miami (Ohio) in a permissible closed scrimmage on Saturday before opening the season next Friday (Nov. 9) against Marquette in the Carrier Classic at Charleston, S.C.
On Monday, Matta discussed the preparation in preseason camp so far.
“I am happy,” Matta said. “This will tell us a little bit more. I think guys are probably tired of banging against each other and hopefully looking forward to going against somebody else. I like the progression we have made to this point. I don’t know if we are fully equipped to play a game. That’s the beauty of having nine or 10 guys back.
“But the practices have been very competitive. That’s exciting to see. Like I always tell the guys, ‘You’re getting better and you don’t know it.’ ”
Matta was pleased to hear that Thomas had been recognized.
“That stuff is great,” Matta said. “It’s great notoriety for Deshaun and also for our program. From a standpoint of now what has to be done, really starting in a week and a half it is completely on. You have to go out every night and prove it and produce.
“I think some of that was predicated on how he finished the year last year, which was phenomenal. I hope he continues where he left off. I think he is astute enough to know he played with an All-American (Sullinger) the last two years and he knows what it takes in terms of teamwork. If he has that at the end of the year, it probably means we’ve had a heck of a year.”
Matta was asked how he has rotated his lineups.
"In terms of mix and matching different guys, I would say we’ve used six or seven different lineups," Matta said. "Will we have the ability to see them all (in this exhibition)? I don't know that. There are some combinations we like that we want to make sure we get on the floor together.”
Matta revealed that Thomas and Williams have a good rapport inside. He said Thompson and Scott have worked well together as have Craft and Smith, who played a majority of the time together last year.
Smith and Thompson met with the media as well on Monday.
"I just want us to be better tomorrow than we're going to be in practice today," Smith said. "I just want this to team to jell together well. It’s our first time in a game environment and a game-type experience for some of our younger guys. I just want them to appreciate that and feel what it's like to be out there."
Some will be interested to see Della Valle make his competitive debut. He signed with OSU out of renowned Findlay Prep in Nevada. The native Italian comes billed as a heady player who can shoot the three.
"I wouldn't say he’s like Jon Diebler, but if I was to compare him or spark any interest in who I would guard him like, it would have to be Jon," Smith said. "Anything that’s wide open, he's going to make it."
Smith said he is excited to get back out on the court at VCA in a live game.
“This is what we dream of,” he said. “This is why you come to a place like Ohio State. You get the jitters and the excitement. We want to go out there and play the best we can.
“It’s a brand new team with a different feel. We will miss some guys, but like the guys who came before them it’s up to us to carry the torch and keep the tradition going and keep winning in this building.”
Thompson added, “We’ve been working so hard for the last five or six months for this moment to get back out on the court and play together as a team. We have a sour taste in our mouth with how it ended last year. We get a chance to get out there and start a new year. We are looking forward to playing.”
This is the fifth straight year Ohio State has played Walsh in an exhibition. Walsh will move to the NCAA Division II level next year. Walsh was 26-5 last year and won the American Mideast Conference title.
Walsh returns three starters and seven letter winners for their first season of Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. Coach Jeff Young, who has won nearly 84 percent of his games over nine seasons, returns starters Brad DuPont (6-0, Jr., Massillon, OH/Jackson) at the point; sophomore Rian Burrell (6-3, Zanesville, OH/HS) at the three and post man Kenny Kornowski (6-9, Sr., Marshallville, OH/Smithville). Kornowski averaged 18 points and eight rebounds last year over 12 games.
Also discussed in Monday's interview session:
* Smith and Thompson joked about their dunking prowess. Smith admitted that Thompson has him in vertical jump, but Smith said he is more creative.
* Smith said fans should watch for Craft to try and score more coming off screens on the perimeter.
* Smith said the Buckeyes have trained to be able to play an up-tempo style this season.
* According to Thompson, the 6-11 Williams -- who surprised with his shot blocking against Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament last year -- has continued to be a force defensively.
* Smith said the Buckeyes were insulted -- just a bit -- to be ranked fourth nationally but picked just third in the Big Ten. But Matta noted that such a discrepancy simply shows how good the Big Ten is this year.
* Matta said that Walsh's Young helped him get established in northeast Ohio when he took the OSU job. That is one reason why the Buckeyes have continued to play Walsh each year.