While many anticipated that Ohio State freshman guard D’Angelo Russell, who’s expected to be a top five pick, would enter the 2015 NBA Draft nothing had been announced with the NBA’s early entry deadline less than a week away. Wednesday afternoon it was reported by ESPN.com that Russell will indeed forego his final three seasons of eligibility, with the talented guard providing a quote as well.
“This was a hard decision because I knew I could come back and play with my teammates who I love, and to be coached by coach Thad Matta again would have been awesome, but at the same time I wanted to pursue my dream of playing in the NBA,” Russell told ESPN.com on Wednesday. “I know what I am capable of and the sky’s the limit with effort. I know I have a lot to work on.”
In his lone season as a Buckeye, Russell played both on and off the ball and was one of the best players (not just freshmen) in the country. The Montverde Academy product led Thad Matta’s team to the NCAA tournament Round of 32, averaging 19.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.
With the seniors, led by guards Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson, and Russell moving on Ohio State will be a very young team next season. Rising junior forward Marc Loving will be their lone scholarship upperclassman, and on the perimeter freshmen A.J. Harris, JaQuan Lyle and Austin Grandstaff and sophomore Kam Williams will be key players as the Buckeyes look to account for their personnel losses.
A 6-foot-5 combo-guard, Russell is a talented scorer and playmaker that can rebound well for his size and should be a capable defender at the next level. He’s not a pure point guard, but he’s also not a natural shooting guard, falling into that combo-guard category.
Russell’s departure will hurt Ohio State in the sense that few expected him to truly be a one-and-done candidate when he arrived in Columbus, but they bring in another terrific recruiting class to help replace him and seniors Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson and Amir Williams.
The class is five deep, headlined by five-star combo-guard JaQuan Lyle. Thad Matta landed four other four star recruits as well — Austin Grandstaff, Daniel Giddens, A.J. Harris and Mickey Mitchell.