With so much Ohio State Basketball news to dive into lately, I’ve decided to create two “super” articles containing all of the content. Everything from recruiting, transfers, draft news, and even scheduling, I have essentially become your one and only Phenom Media Buckeyes Insider, with Buckeye news that may have been overlooked recently. This first one represents the month of March, following the Buckeyes defeat in the NCAA Tournament.
Marshall Guard Jarrod West Transfers to Louisville Over Buckeyes, Pittsburgh
“All three coaching staffs are really good at what they do. They’ve been successful during their time as coaches and have all come from a really good coaching tree so that’s something that has been really attractive to me this whole time.”
That’s what Marshall Guard Jarrod West said of Louisville, Ohio State, and Pittsburgh before making his decision on where his college future would continue as a transfer with one year of eligibility remaining. West was a major contributor for the Marshall men’s basketball team this past season, averaging 12.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and an amazing 6 APG in his senior season for the Thundering Herd. West is someone who can also put the ball in the basket at an efficient clip, doing so at 45% last season.
Ohio State garnered interest knowing they need to replace PG CJ Walker, but ultimately West chose Louisville, stating that he believes he has a lot to offer with his skills and a ton of leadership to bring to the table. On a team like the Buckeyes, West would have likely seen a reduced role with Duane Washington and EJ Liddell likely to return next season.
Ohio State will continue roam the transfer portal for Walker replacements, and potential big men that could help bring size to the team next season. Those are the biggest areas to address for next season besides Liddell and Washington’s status.
Ohio State Adds Penn State Graduate Transfer PG Jamari Wheeler
Ohio State’s found their guy to replace CJ Walker next season. Say hello to Jamari Wheeler. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it should. The Penn State Grad Transfer PG was one of 5 former Nittany Lions to enter the transfer portal after this year, but he might be the most underrated of the bunch.
In addition to Wheeler, Ohio State gave looks to Seton Hall‘s Shaver Reynolds and Marshall‘s Jarrod West since their season ended to Oral Roberts in the NCAA Tournament. However, it was the two-way minded Wheeler who chose the Buckeyes.
As I previously said, Wheeler may have been Penn State’s most underrated player. He wasn’t a consistent, double-digit scoring threat, but he was possibly the equivalent of that defensively. He is one of the best defenders in the Big Ten, as a two-time All-Big Ten Defensive Team honoree for the Nittany Lions. In fact, Wheeler also finished his Nittany Lions career with more steals (191) than turnovers (177).
Wheeler had a stellar season with the Nittany Lions last year, averaging 6.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 3.5 APG. Not only that, but Wheeler is an absolute tear defensively, averaging over 1.5 SPG in each of the last 3 seasons, including 1.8 SPG last year. Only shooting 40% from the field, Wheeler adds some ability from beyond the arc as a 36% 3-point shooter, and he’ll enter next season with serious consideration for the Buckeyes starting PG role.
Wheeler will also earn the responsibility of guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player, as he’s one of the best defensive players in the Big Ten, if not the country. Since Wheeler’s using his extra year of eligibility from COVID-19, he does not go against Ohio State‘s scholarship count. This rule also applies for Kyle Young, who could return next season if he chooses to do so. A return for Young would be crucial for Ohio State’s interior defense, rebounding, and leadership.
With Ohio State Guard/Forward Musa Jallow entering the transfer portal, Ohio State has 1 more scholarship spot remaining for next season’s roster. I would expect them to look for a big man, considering Wheeler will split time at PG with Jimmy Sotos, Meechie Johnson, and even Duane Washington when called upon to handle the ball for Chris Holtmann.
Ohio State Wing Musa Jallow Enters Transfer Portal, Leaving Program After Four Seasons with Buckeyes
Ohio State veteran wing Musa Jallow announced via Twitter that he will be entering the transfer portal, confirming his departure from the program after 4 seasons with the Buckeyes. The redshirt Junior’s announcement comes shortly after Ohio State landed grad transfer PG Jamari Wheeler from Penn State to help replace CJ Walker. Jallow will look elsewhere with two years of eligibility remaining.
Jallow was a 3-star prospect and the 35th ranked SF when he committed to the Buckeyes in the 2017 recruiting class. In 2017-18 as a Freshman, Jallow played in 33 games, starting in 10 of them. He averaged 2.5 PPG, and 0.8 APG in 14 minutes per game. In his sophomore season, Jallow developed into a top defensive player for Ohio State, starting in 13 of 35 games. Jallow averaged 2.9 PPG, 0.7 APG, and 0.5 SPG in nearly 16 minutes per game.
In his final 2 years with the Buckeyes, Jallow suffered an injury forcing him to redshirt his Junior season. This past season, he started in just 5 of 26 games, averaging 2.9 PPG and 0.7 APG in roughly 16 minutes per game.
Head Coach Chris Holtmann said of Musa Jallow‘s announcement: “Musa has been a joy to coach these past 4 years. He is a talented player and a tremendous person. Despite battling injuries these past 2 years he has made a very positive impact on our team. Musa has graduated and will always be a Buckeye. We will help and support him in any way.”
With Jallow’s departure, Ohio State returns backcourt players Jimmy Sotos, Meechie Johnson, Duane Washington, and wings Justin Ahrens plus Eugene Brown. With the addition of Jamari Wheeler and 4-star Malaki Branham, Ohio State will now have 1 more scholarship roster spot available to them to use. Ohio State should look to add a big man with that roster spot, as this roster spot is very guard-heavy. On the flip side, the bigs Ohio State have are undersized, such as EJ Liddell.
Buckeyes Elect to Join the Fort Myers Tip-Off in 2021
It was announced that Ohio State will be a participant in the 2021 Fort Myers Tip-Off in Fort Myers, Florida. The event will take place Thanksgiving week, and featured teams (among others to be announced) are Ohio State, California, Florida, and Seton Hall. Ohio State will end up competing against two of the three other opponents in the early-season tournament, which will be announced at a later date (as will the other games).
California finished this past season 9-20 (3-17 in Pac-12), while Florida was one of the better teams in a rather competitive SEC. They finished 15-10 (9-7 in SEC), and had the chance to play the Buckeyes in the NCAA Tournament this year if Ohio State would have done their job and defeated Oral Roberts. Instead, Oral Roberts went on a miracle run, defeating both the Buckeyes and Gators, before falling to Arkansas 72-70 in the Sweet Sixteen.
The connection to California for the Buckeyes is Justin Sueing, who transferred from Cal after two remarkable seasons there. Seton Hall finished 14-13 (10-9 in Big East). It’ll surely be an interesting and compelling early season tournament for the Buckeyes, who return a large majority of their team from last season’s 21-10 (12-8 in Big Ten) squad that one of the conference’s best last year.
EJ Liddell Declares for NBA Draft, Elects to Keep College Eligibility
EJ Liddell appears to be doing what Kaleb Wesson did before his career wrapped up. Liddell announced he would enter the NBA Draft this year, while retaining his college eligibility for the Buckeyes next year. This allows Liddell to hear from NBA scouts and personnel on what he needs to do to improve his game in order to increase his draft stock while he’s at Ohio State.
As a Freshman, Liddell averaged 7 PPG and 4 RPG in 17 MPG of the bench, while coming on late on his Freshman campaign. He had performances of 17 points in a loss at Iowa in late February and a 17 point, 11 rebound stat-line for his first collegiate double-double, two weeks later in a win against Illinois. He finished the regular season with a 12 point, 4 rebound performance in a loss to Michigan State. Due to COVID-19, the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments were never played, ending the Buckeyes (and Liddell’s) season.
This year, Liddell broke out nationally as a Sophomore. Becoming a starter for the Buckeyes, Liddell’s production increased significantly as he averaged over 16 PPG and just under 7 RPG while playing 29 MPG. His efficiency increased, shooting over 47% this season, including a newly developed outside game. Liddell knocked down 34% of his 3-pointers this year, another career-high. Liddell set a career high with 26 points in a mid-January win against the Fighting Illini.
Ohio State finished the regular season with an 18-8 record after climbing as high as #4 in the AP Poll late in the season, while finishing as the #5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, the Buckeyes made it to the championship game before falling to Illinois in overtime where Liddell managed 12 points and 7 rebounds. Liddell struggled throughout the Big Ten Tournament, as the Buckeyes were led by the resurgent Duane Washington Jr, who averaged 23 PPG on 53% shooting (44% from three) during the Big Ten Tournament for the Buckeyes.
Liddell earned 1st-Team All Big-Ten (Coaches) and 2nd-Team All Big-Ten (Media) honors this season, and he was getting consideration for the Wooden Award. Next season, Liddell would be getting serious consideration for a preseason All-American team, and Wooden Watch.
There it is, a wrap up of Buckeyes Basketball news and more for the month of March heading into April.
Photo Credit: Matthew O’Haren