Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Buckeyes’ Tate cleared after surgeries

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An Ohio State starter is on schedule to return on time for his junior year after injuries cut his sophomore campaign short.

Jae’Sean Tate, who started 28 games for the Buckeyes last season, has been fully cleared to practice this month after undergoing multiple surgeries, according to Cleveland.com.

When we get back he’ll be 100 percent full contact,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “He can shoot and run and do all those things now.

“He’s kind of been like living in a cage and has been released, and he’s ready to run a marathon.”

Tate’s season came to an abrupt end in February when he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He was averaging 11.7 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 52.1 percent at the time. In addition to shoulder surgery, Tate also underwent a surgical procedure on his ankle stemming from an injury he suffered prior to his sophomore year.

His return to the floor is critical for the Buckeyes as they look to rebound from last year’s NIT season which featured the defections via transfer of four members of the program’s highly-regarded 2015 recruiting class. Even with those losses, the Buckeyes have their top six scorers from last season back while welcoming a four-man recruiting class that includes four-star forward Derek Funderburk.

A.J. Harris adds to Ohio State exodus

Thad Matta
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Ohio State’s vaunted 2015 recruiting class made it through one season in Columbus before leaving campus, but it wasn’t in the Kentucky one-and-one sort of way.

A.J. Harris, a freshman guard, was granted his release to transfer, the university announced Tuesday, making him the fourth player in Thad Matta’s top-five 2015 class to depart the program.

Shooting guard Austin Grandstaff left during the season while center Daniel Giddens and wing Mickey Mitchell announced their intentions to transfer this week. That leaves just JaQuan Lyle as the only player left standing, though he was also the only one of the class to receive major playing time last season.

Grandstaff, Giddens, Mitchell and Harris were all bit players for the Buckeyes, who saw a seven-year NCAA tournament streak come to an end this season with a second-round NIT exit. While none of the trio provided much in the way of instant production this season for Matta, they were important building blocks for the future that decided one year in Columbus was enough. Seeing three-quarters of a highly regarded class transfer away after one year has to be extremely frustrating.

Matta’s 2016 class isn’t nearly as strong, but Derek Funderburk is a top-100 player as a 6-foot-9 center, who should help bridge the gap in 2016-17 with the core of the Buckeyes’ roster returning.

First-half struggles doom No. 4 Kentucky against Ohio State

Kentucky head coach John Calipari talks to Alex Poythress (22) during a time out in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Ohio State Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Associated Press

One week after they were blown out at UConn on national television, Ohio State wasn’t given much of a chance to compete with No. 4 Kentucky much less win the game. But games are played for a reason, and Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn the Buckeyes outplayed the Wildcats and won by the final score of 74-67.

Once again Kentucky got off to a slow start offensively, and outside of freshman guard Jamal Murray the Wildcats struggled to get much going against Ohio State. Murray scored 33 points on the day, shooting 12-for-23 from the field and 7-for-9 from three in his best performance of the season. Ohio State didn’t have an answer for Murray, but the good news for the Buckeyes was that the other key Wildcats struggled and a 20-7 first half run gave them the cushion they needed to pull off the upset.

Tyler Ulis shot 4-for-12 from the field and Isaiah Briscoe made just one of his eight field goal attempts, and given the inconsistency of Kentucky’s front court John Calipari can’t afford to have his guards struggle to put points on the board. As a team the Wildcats shot 30.5 percent in the first half, and overall they struggled mightily inside of the arc. Kentucky shot 9-for-19 from three with the aforementioned Murray being the biggest reason why, but it’s tough to win games when shooting just over 36 percent from two.

Part of that can be placed upon penetrating guards taking challenged shots. But another issue is the play of the Kentucky big men, and outside of Marcus Lee they’ve struggled to find positive answers.

How can Calipari get what he needs from his big men? It goes without saying that Skal Labissiere has much further to go in his development than anyone imagined before the season began. The freshman finished Saturday’s game with two points and five rebounds, shooting 1-for-7 from the field and being rendered ineffective by the Buckeyes.

Lee has been Kentucky’s most consistent front court player and that was once again the case against Ohio State, as he tallied 12 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes before fouling out. But he needs help. With Labissiere being where he is development-wise and Alex Poythress still struggling to play with the aggressiveness and athleticism his coach is demanding of him, the Wildcats will continue to have issues moving forward if strides aren’t made.

Ohio State was the more aggressive team from the start, and outside of some turnover issues in the second half as Kentucky fought back to within three points Thad Matta’s team played well. Keita Bates-Diop scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds and Marc Loving added 12 and nine boards. There’s still a lot of room for this team to grow, and Saturday’s win is a highly valuable confidence booster for the young Buckeyes.

That being said, it’s hard not to return the focus to a team viewed as the clear favorites in the SEC and a national title contender. Ulis and Briscoe will have better afternoons. But if Kentucky is to be a major player nationally this season they’ll need more from their front court options, most notably Poythress. None of Kentucky’s big men have to be “20 and ten” players, but they’ve got to play with more aggression and consistency than they have in many of the Wildcats’ games to this point if this group is reach its goals.

Ohio State freshman Mickey Mitchell cleared to play by NCAA

Plano West's Mickey Mitchell, left, and  Houston Clear Lake's Orion Lewis (2), right, chase the ball during a UIL boys' 6A basketball state finals game, Saturday, March 14, 2015, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Associated Press
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Ohio State freshman forward Mickey Mitchell has been declared eligible and will make his season debut on Saturday against Kentucky, according to a release from the school. The 6-foot-8 Mitchell is a consensus top-150 prospect in the Class of 2015 and should give the young and depleted Buckeyes a boost this season.

“Ohio State freshman forward Mickey Mitchell has been declared eligible by the NCAA Eligibility Center and will be available to play Saturday vs. Kentucky in New York,” Ohio State vice president and director of athletics Gene Smith said in the release. “The efforts of the NCAA staff to bring this to closure is greatly appreciated.”

A native of Texas, Mitchell is a very skilled passer and can run some point forward. This should help the struggling Buckeyes, who have seen inconsistent play from point guards JaQuan Lyle and A.J. Harris early this season. It’s hard to say how prepared Mitchell will be to impact the college game, but he was a decorated high school player and he’s been allowed to practice with Ohio State while waiting on the NCAA.

At the very least, he should help move the ball and provide some minutes.

Report: Former Louisville recruit Lyle confirms allegations to NCAA

The Spaulding Hoop Hall Classic
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With the book “Breaking Cardinal Rules” released over the weekend, the Louisville basketball program has some serious allegations to look into. Escort Katina Powell alleged that she was paid by then Louisville staffer Andre McGee to entice recruits through the use of prostitutes, with three being her own daughters. For the NCAA, an investigation into this would involve them looking to prove the validity of the allegations in the book.

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But without subpoena power the NCAA can’t force Powell (who said she reached out to the NCAA) to sit down for a conversation regarding the allegations made in her book. But they can interview current players who may have been involved, whether they’re at Louisville or another school. And Wednesday it was reported by Yahoo Sports that the NCAA has interviewed a former Louisville recruit regarding his alleged involvement in the scandal.

JaQuan Lyle, who in June 2013 committed to Louisville and whose name was mentioned in Powell’s book, was interviewed by NCAA investigators according to Pat Forde’s report. But according to the report an Ohio State spokesman said that they aren’t too concerned when it comes to Lyle’s eligibility. Here’s the excerpt in the book in which Lyle’s name appeared according to Yahoo Sports:

“Been a long time since we’ve been up to U of L to do a show. McGee texted me like, what’s up? He wanted me to bring three girls up there for a new recruit named JaQuan Lyle, he and his friend. I took (escorts) Rod-Ni, TooTall, Jazmine and Shay, who calls herself Sammi. TooTall made $100, Shay made $100, and Jazzy made nothing because she did absolutely nothing.”

(10/8 UPDATE, 11:06 a.m.: Louisville’s worst concerns reportedly came to fruition as Lyle has confirmed the allegations in Powell’s book, according to CBSSports.com.)

(10/8 UPDATE, 4:21 p.m.: According to WDRB Louisville, a former Louisville player discussed with school investigators one occasion in which strippers were present in the players’ dorm, while also disputing some of the other claims made by Powell in her book.)

Lyle would eventually reopen his recruitment in November 2013, landing at Oregon where he wasn’t allowed to enroll in 2014. After spending some time at IMG Academy in Florida the former five-star prospect committed to Ohio State as a member of its 2015 recruiting class.

In order to get current players (LSU’s Antonio Blakeney has also reportedly been interviewed) to cooperate the NCAA can dangle the threat of a loss of eligibility in front of them. And unless those who can’t be forced to speak decide to sit down for conversations, this is the best way for investigators to acquire information. With the names of other players appearing in Powell’s book, look for more announcements of interviews with the NCAA to come in the days and weeks ahead.

PHOTO: Ohio State’s new LeBron James shoe display

during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.
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Ohio State has capitalized on its close relationship with NBA superstar LeBron James over the years and now has a new shoe display that should come in handy during recruiting.

The Buckeyes put out a tweet late this week with the display, calling themselves “THE LeBron school.” While this is something small, recruits like that the Buckeyes are tied into the best player in the world and it’s cool to them that Ohio State gets some exclusive gear.