Guard D’Angelo Russell finished his high school career as one of the best players in the Class of 2014, with Rivals.com ranking him 18th in the class and giving Russell a five-star rating. And as part of a talented freshman class reeled in by Ohio State head coach Thad Matta and his coaching staff, Russell is a player expected to have an immediate impact, and based upon two factors the Buckeyes will need for that to be the case.
Of course there’s the personnel factor, with Ohio State having to account for the loss of their top three scorers from last season. LaQuinton Ross (15.0 ppg) and Lenzelle Smith Jr.(11.2) averaged double figures with Aaron Craft adding 9.8 points per contest. The other factor: Ohio State needed to improve offensively, regardless of who they added to (or lost from) the roster. In 2013-14 the Buckeyes finished the year ranked sixth in the Big Ten in offensive efficiency, fifth in field goal percentage (45.0%) and ninth in three-point percentage (32.4%).
Russell was seen as one of the players who can help Ohio State improve on those stats, and in the team’s comfortable 77-37 exhibition victory over Walsh College the freshman’s full skill set was on display. Russell scored a game-high 17 points while also accounting for eight rebounds and six assists. Russell did have four turnovers on the afternoon, but he was one of two Buckeyes to dish out six assists with senior point guard Shannon Scott being the other.
And in his postgame comments, Matta was complimentary of his freshman guard with regards to both his play on Sunday and how he’s progressed during the preseason according to Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch.
Coach Thad Matta said Russell’s day was “kind of what he’s done” since he arrived on campus this summer.
“He’s got a different pace about him,” Matta said. “He sees things like a lot of freshmen don’t see them. That’s good. Even talking to him during (stoppages in play), the things he sees out there are really unique for a freshman.”
In total four Buckeyes scored in double figures in the team’s lone exhibition, with Sam Thompson (13 points), Marc Loving (12) and Jae’Sean Tate (ten) joining Russell. Balance will once again be key for Ohio State, but in Russell they have a guard capable of having a major impact as both a scorer and a distributor. And if the Buckeyes are to make a run at the Big Ten title, that will have to be the case.