Category Archives: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ex-Buckeyes G/F Lighty waived by Hawks

Former Ohio State swingman David Lighty was among three players waived by the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, team officials said.

The Hawks also waived nine-year NBA veteran Damien Wilkins and undrafted rookie Adonis Thomas, bringing their roster to 17.

All three players were training camp invitees.

Lighty is 6-foot-5 and played at Ohio State from 2006-11. He went undrafted following his college career and has played professionally in Italy and France.

“For me, to embrace the opportunity, embrace everything and just be me,” Lighty told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution of his Hawks tryout. “Go with it and do the best I can. Find my way to leave an impact on a game every time I’m in there.”

Thomas, a 6-7 forward, left Memphis after his sophomore season but did not get drafted.

“I just figured I had total confidence in what I was doing,” Thomas told the Journal-Constitution. “I felt as though I was ready. I felt as though I was an NBA player and I was ready to leave. I didn’t get drafted unfortunately but you can’t dwell on that.”

Wilkins, 6-6, has spent nine years in the NBA with five different teams.

Always time for some Ohio State-Michigan talk, right?

OAKLAND – We interrupt this really bad football game between the Raiders and Jaguars for a little Ohio State-related trivia.

With the Raiders starting Terrelle Pryor and the Jaguars starting Chad Henne, this marks the fourth time in NFL history that there’s been a starting quarterback matchup of an Ohio State alum and a Michigan alum.

We can call Pryor an Ohio State alum — even with so many games erased — right?

That stat comes courtesy of Chase Stuart of FootballPerspective.com, who’s a good follow @FBGChase if you’re into the Twitter thing.

On one third quarter play, Henne handed off to Denard Robinson. That’s former Michigan quarterback handing to former Michigan quarterback.

The Jaguars are very much in line to draft a quarterback from Louisville next May, but that’s irrelevant here.

Anyway, Pryor vs. Henne follows Drew Henson vs. Craig Krenzel (bet that was a doozy), Jim Harbaugh vs. Mike Tomczak and Elvis Grbac vs. Tomczak in Ohio State vs. Michigan NFL history.

On R.J. Umberger

As I peruse the 2013-14 Columbus Blue Jackets roster – or what passes for a roster on the eve of training camp – perhaps no name conjures up complex and mixed feelings like R.J. Umberger.  Umberger’s an interesting case, one that I thought was worth digging into as we wait for camp to get underway.

Let’s start with the givens (unless otherwise linked, information taken from Umberger’s Wikipedia page):

  • Umberger attended Ohio State for three years (playing hockey for the Buckeyes), leaving early to take the professional route.  (He obtained his degree in 2011.)
  • He was a draft day trade in 2008, arriving from Philadelphia.
  • Umberger scored the first playoff goal in Columbus Blue Jackets history in 2009.
  • After wrapping up a four-year contract with an annual salary cap hit of $3.75 million, Umberger signed a five-year extension in 2011 that carries a $4.6 million annual cap hit through 2016-17. (source: CapGeek)
  • Umberger has been incredibly durable, playing in all but five games during his five seasons in Columbus.
  • Umberger’s Columbus statistics:
  • 2008-09: 26 goals, 20 assists, 46 points
  • 2009-10: 23G, 32A, 55PTS
  • 2010-11: 25G, 32A, 57PTS
  • 2011-12: 20G, 20A, 40PTS
  • 2013:  8G, 10A, 18PTS (extrapolates to 13G, 17A, 30PTS over an 82-game season)

Why do we love R.J.?  Well, the Ohio State tie is an obvious point of endearment.  Beyond that, Umberger has been recognized as a bit of a utility forward – he can play center or wing on pretty much any line.  He does what is asked of him, doesn’t mince words in his locker room comments after the game and is recognized as a stand-up guy.  Umberger also was the guy who busted up the infamous 2010 St. Louis Blues pre-game soccer kick around in the Nationwide Arena halls,  which fired up the troops and preceded my nominee for the Best Game Ever. (Thinking it through, that alone makes him a reasonable candidate for Blue Jackets captain.) Read More »

Five quick college football predictions

I should really get out of the prediction business; I’m terrible at it.

Quitters never win.

Here are five very quick predictions I have on this college football season…

1. Alabama wins the national championship. Mount Union wins the Div. III national championship. Perhaps you’ve seen this movie before.

2. I am previously on record with this: Ball State will get to 12-1 by beating 9-4 Ohio in the MAC Championship Game.

3. There’s plenty of hype surrounding Louisville, but the Cardinals will lose their season finale at Cincinnati and the Bearcats will claim the AAC’s last automatic BCS bid.

4. Braxton Miller will sit on the stage at the Downtown Athletic Club for the Heisman Trophy ceremony in December. Johhny Manziel will sit there, too. A.J. McCarron will win it, and we’ll all hope Katherine Webb is there.

5. Ohio State will win. And win big. And win its first 11 games, then lose at Michigan. Then, the Buckeyes will turn the tables on the Wolverines and win the following week in the Big Ten Championship Game to get to 12-1 and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl, where they’ll beat Stanford.

Another Mitchell commits to Ohio State

Urban Meyer scored a recruiting coup last January when he secured a commitment from Plano, Tx., linebacker Mike Mitchell.

According to multiple reports, now Thad Matta has secured a commitment from Mike’s younger brother, Mickey.

The Brothers Mitchell count as big gets for Ohio State.

Scout.com lists Mickey Mitchell as a five-star recruit and a top-20 player in the class of 2015. Meyer said earlier this month that Mike Mitchell will play as a freshman; he, too, was a five-star recruit.

They come from good bloodlines. Their father, former NFL linebacker Ken Mitchell, told me last winter that he has “three more sons coming, and they’re all freaks.”

Both Meyer and Matta will likely remind the remaining two that Columbus is a very good place to be.

The Basketball Buckeyes last week got a verbal commitment from class of 2015 point guard Amos “AJ” Harris from Dayton Dunbar.

 

Ex-Ohio State F Deshaun Thomas headed overseas

It appears that former Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas will begin his professional basketball career overseas, as opposed to the NBA.

According to several reports, Thomas will sign to play in France, perhaps as early as Friday. Thomas had been deciding between offers from teams in both the French and Spanish leagues.

Thomas was selected by the Spurs in the second round of the NBA Draft (No. 58 overall) in June. He entered the draft after his junior season with the Buckeyes, in which he averaged a team-high 19.8 points and 5.9 rebounds.

But questions about whether the 6-foot-7 Thomas would be a small forward or power forward at the next level contributed to his slide on draft night. He was not guaranteed a roster spot on the Spurs.

Thomas averaged 12.4 points for the Spurs’ entry in the Las Vegas summer league.

By opting to play overseas, Thomas allows the defending Western Conference champions to retain his rights through the 2014 draft should he decide to make a go of it in the NBA. The Spurs would have surrendered his rights had he not made the final cut at the end of training camp.

“I needed to make a decision,” Thomas told The Columbus Dispatch. “In this business, you have to think about family. I still could have gone to (training camp) and tried to make the roster, but with my (17-month old) son and a family to provide for, I had to look at that. And developing a year ain’t going to hurt.

“It was kind of tough, because I wanted to make the roster. But if training camp didn’t go well, I’d probably be in the (NBA Development) League, and when you go in the D-League you need another part-time job.”

Thomas added he spoke with the Spurs and received no assurances about making the team.

At least one Ohio State player has been selected in each of the previous seven drafts — the longest streak in college basketball.

Adam Griffin’s Ohio State career likely over

Ohio State backup defensive back and special teams player Adam Griffin had shoulder surgery and likely won’t play football again, according an Ohio State release.

The son of two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin played in all 12 games last season and was a recipient last winter of the team’s Iron Buckeye Award, given to a student-athlete who best exemplified unquestionable physical training dedication, determination, discipline, toughness and leadership.

He was apparently injured in training camp. The Buckeyes have plenty of talent in the secondary but will miss Griffin’s experience and leadership in putting together their special teams units.

Also recently undergoing shoulder surgery was fellow reserve Jamie Wood, a fifth-year senior who played in 30 games during his injury-riddled career. Both are local products; Wood is from Pickerington, and Griffin played high school football at Columbus St. Francis DeSales.

Ohio State has a two-a-day session on Friday and a practice that includes a scrimmage element on Saturday. All are closed.

A few notes from Ohio State’s Wednesday practice

COLUMBUS, Ohio – We got to watch Ohio State practice today.

Here’s a little of what I scribbled in my notebook and stored in my memory bank…

*Braxton Miller is good. You already knew that. But Braxton Miller is better — he’s noticeably more confident and generally throws a much better ball — and, at least from a far, seems more comfortable. The more offense Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman can give Miller, the faster the Buckeyes will play, more players will be involved and defenses will be gasping for air.

*Miller is better, and he’s still far from a finished product. It still remains to be seen not only how he’ll perform from the pocket, but how often opponents can keep him from the pocket. In 90 or so minutes on Wednesday, the impression this untrained eye had was that Miller threw a bunch of different kinds of passes and didn’t throw them all well, but he threw a couple big-timers and overall seemed much more sure of his throws and his reads. I’ll stand by what Meyer said all summer, that we have not seen even close to his ceiling.

*Dontre Wilson, the freshman runner/receiver/slot man/return man, is the real deal. Believe the hype.

*Miller on one play was sprinting out to his right and saw Wilson on what was either a wheel route or Wilson breaking off his first route into open space. Miller kind of lazily lofted a throw from about the 15-yard line towards the back corner of the end zone. When it left his hand, it looked like he’d thrown it too far. Wilson hit that extra gear he clearly has and caught it. Whether or not he got a foot down, and whether or not he was the first or fourth option on that play, and whether or not Miller threw it like he knew what he was doing or just threw it to see if Wilson is really a human being, it’s the kind of play that speaks to the potential of this offense.

*Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs is still the staff’s resident wild man, and he doesn’t disappoint. But Meyer really runs an impressive football practice, and it seems like no one on the staff is afraid to show emotion, show displeasure or really get after guys. We don’t always know what we’re watching, but it seems like Coombs was really getting after freshman corner Eli Apple. Maybe that’s because he thinks Apple can play sooner than later?

*Top corner Bradley Roby, who still faces discipline from a July arrest depending on when Meyer “gets the facts,” was with the second-team defense. Roby was very good, and it’s not hard to imagine that the dozen or so NFL scouts watching Wednesday were there primarily to see Roby.

*Meyer only opens a handful of summer camp practices and has a few select regular-season weeks open to scouts. That the St. Louis Rams had three guys watching from the sideline is probably a function of different universities granting access at different times — and of the Rams opening the preseason on Thursday night in Cleveland.

*It appeared as though freshman Gareon Conley was playing left cornerback with the first unit with Roby serving his time. If Roby misses any time the Buckeyes will be very green at the cornerback position but have leaders and experience at safety in Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett.

*Freshman defensive tackle Joey Bosa is going to play. Freshman defensive tackle Michael Hill is probably going to play, too.

*Adolphus Washington is as advertised. A stud.

*Guard Andrew Norwell went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury and left practice. Depth on the offensive line is one of Meyer’s top concerns, so this is a storyline to watch — both from the standpoint of when Norwell and center Corey Linsley can get back, and who can answer the call their (at least temporary) absences created?

Well-traveled V.J. King aims for improvement

It’s been quite a year for V.J. King.

Whether or not you’ve been reading previously, it’s been quite a spring and half-a-summer, specifically.

His first season of high school basketball in Ohio was as good as many expected it to be — at least until the Div. II state championship game, when V.J. struggled and St. Vincent-St. Mary lost.

Angry at himself, V.J. wanted in the gym the next day. As had been the plan win or lose, his dad, Vincent, forced him to take three days off.

Three long days, those were. The Kid feels lost without basketball.

This series tracking V.J.’s pursuit of his basketball dreams started about a year ago, when the Kings moved to Akron and V.J. enrolled at St. V-M. Already ranked nationally in his class — yes, there are people who rank middle school basketball players — he arrived with fanfare and expectations. St. V-M, as you may remember, previously had a pretty good player who answers to the name King.

So far, he’s (mostly) dodged that. And settled into his new surroundings nicely, averaging 17 points per game as a freshman and carrying a 3.6 grade-point average over the first three quarters of the school year. He couldn’t dodge someone creating a fake Twitter account using his name and likeness later in the spring, but that got resolved (and deleted). By April he was into a groove with his King James — who would have guessed? — AAU team, playing on weekends anywhere from Detroit to Dallas to New Jersey.

V.J. King in Team USA gear

In the last week of May, V.J. flew to Colorado Springs as one of 25 participants in USA Basketball’s 16-and-under camp. He didn’t come back for more than three weeks, not until he’d become one of 12 who made the team and then become one of the first guys off the bench for a team that not surprisingly rolled to a gold medal at the Tournament of the Americas in Uruguay.

Yes, Uruguay. Playing for Team USA.

So, it’s been quite a spring and half of a summer for V.J. King.

He took his final exams when he came home from Uruguay and took one more day off of basketball. Then, he was right back into the flow. This week, he’s back on the circuit playing in Nike’s prestigious Peach Jam event. The AAU nationals are a few weeks away.

College coaches are watching all the way. Ohio State and Wisconsin offered last fall; Miami (Fla.) and North Carolina State have offered since the high school season ended. Plenty of others have watched and continue to do so.

All V.J.’s father says about his recruitment is “we’re going to take it slow. There is no hurry.” What V.J. says about it is this: “I’m used to people asking. I never get riled up about who’s there to watch. It’s still a few years away and I’m just honored to have colleges showing interest in me.”

Those who come to watch immediately see his talent and basketball IQ. He was 6’7 last season and comfortable shooting from 22 feet. He’s worked hard on improving not only that jump shot but being able to create it himself. Going 1-of-6 for 5 points in that state championship loss to Columbus Bishop Watterson has driven him.

“The way I played and we lost, I was sick,” V.J. said. “And I was ready to get back immediately and start making sure that never happens again. It stings more because we got there and then just didn’t get it done. And I pin a lot of it on myself. It still hurts.”

He’s human. And though he needs to add bulk and work on his left hand, his assertiveness and improve his overall athleticism to truly get where he wants to go, he is a 6’7 (at least) 16-year old making NBA-range 3-pointers. He’s good enough that some  other kid, somewhere, had a Twitter account purporting to be him.

In today’s social media age — V.J. prefers video games to Facebook — that’s a high compliment.

Said Vincent King: “I think he’s starting to taste it. He won’t be outworked. I think he’s figuring out there might be something special inside there, and that light coming on a little bit can be what helps it go to the next level.”

He’s a little taller now, a little stronger, a little more comfortable in his own skin — and in his seemingly never-ending supply of really large Nikes. Going to LeBron’s school and playing for his AAU program has its perks. In his freshman season V.J. said he “learned a lot. I really focused on playing better defense. My coaches pushed me. I could have had more rebounds, made more hustle plays. I’ve learned those things can decide games.”

Maybe his father’s favorite moment of high school season came in a long-forgotten regular-season game, on a play when V.J. came from the back side of a play to block a shot into the fourth row. He not so politely told the shooter to “get that (stuff) out of here” and was assessed a technical foul.

In the stands, Vincent King saw that assertiveness he’d been pushing to see. On the court, those two points and one extra possession didn’t keep St. V-M from winning the game.

“Heat of the moment,” V.J. said. “The ref had a good view of what I said.”

He laughed. He said “be more assertive, be a little meaner” is part of what Ohio State coach Thad Matta told him last winter.

He knows he’s getting better, and he says that’s his only focus for the rest of the summer. He looks forward, already, to next winter. He has a bunch of new friends from his Team USA experience to track, too, players who also already hold offers from top college programs nationally. Accolades and attention and a new home arena — named for its primary benefactor, LeBron James — await, but V.J. said he’s thinking only about getting the chance to redeem himself for that state championship clunker.

“I know what the water is like here, so to speak,” he said. “I know my coaches and my teammates. I know we’re getting everybody’s shot in every gym.

“I pay attention to college and that outside stuff to an extent but I don’t put myself in it. One day I’ll be an upperclassman and I might be more involved with that stuff. Right now what people say or anything outside doesn’t matter. I just need to get better.”

His daily workouts with his father are done with that in mind. With any luck, he’ll get a couple workouts in with LeBron in August or September. And by December, he’ll be chasing the state title he feels he let slip away last season.

“One thing I’ll never forget from the season is one of the opposing student sections getting on me while I was taking the ball out of bounds,” V.J. said. “They were calling me a little kid, telling me I was lucky to make one shot, that I didn’t belong on any list of the best players. I just kept hearing ‘overrated, overrated’ and a bunch of other stuff I can’t repeat.

“These guys kept going, mocking me, yelling me. I know it’s heat of the moment stuff and they just want their team to win, but I think early last year I let it get to me a little bit.”

Later in the year, he handled it with a smile. He knows it’s not going to stop anytime soon.

“After one game,” V.J. said, “the same kid who was screaming ‘overrated’ asked for my autograph before we got on the bus.”

Game back on for basketball recruits

The college basketball recruiting game is officially back on Wednesday afternoon.

The first of three NCAA open evaluation periods begins today, and it’s no coincidence they take place during some of the biggest events on the high school basketball travel circuit. Nike’s Peach Jam is underway in Augusta, Georgia, while the Adidas Invitational is tipping off in Indianapolis.

Later this month, many of the top teams will play in long-standing events in Las Vegas while others will play in the AAU nationals in Orlando. That’s during the third of the three NCAA evaluation period, which runs July 24-28.

The rules are so specific that today’s evaluation period doesn’t start until 5 p.m. ET and ends promptly at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Coaches can attend these events and jockey for position to be seen — wearing their school’s colors and shiny (insert shoe company) gear, but can’t talk to the prospects.

It’s quite a business.

The open communication period for class of 2015 (rising junior) prospects began last month, meaning coaches can have unlimited phone and text communication. In short, these players know what coaches are coming to see them.

Scout.com released new national rankings for the class of 2015 late last month and listed two Ohio prospects in the top 20, forward Carlton Bragg of Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joseph (12th) and shooting guard Luke Kennard of Franklin, Ohio (18th). Small forward Mickey Mitchell of Prestonwood Christian in Plano, Texas is 15th; he’s the younger brother of incoming Ohio State linebacker Mike Mitchell.

Ohio State might not be Mitchell’s leader, but the inside connection can’t hurt.

Bragg plays in the summer for Adidas-sponsored Ohio Basketball Club, so he’s playing this week in Indianapolis. Kennard plays for King James, which as you may have guessed is a Nike program. Kennard’s King James teammates include fellow priority recruits A.J. Harris of Dayton Dunbar, Josh Williams of Barberton and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s V.J. King, a class of 2016 prospect who holds offers from Ohio State, Wisconsin, North Carolina State and Miami (Fla.).

(ADDITION: Per various Twitter reports, head coaches watching Bragg on Wednesday night included Ohio State’s Thad Matta, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, Indiana’s Tom Crean and John Groce of Illinois.)

Ohio State already has four commitments for the class of 2014: Pickerington Central guard Jae’sean Tate, small forward Keita Bates-Diop of Chicago, guard D’Angelo Russell of Louisville and center David Bell of Garfield Heights. It’s believed that the Buckeyes are involved with some other big men, including Scout’s No. 5 prospect, Myles Turner of Texas.

The Buckeyes will lose four-year point guard Aaron Craft and three-year swingman Lenzelle Smith Jr. after the 2013-14 season and also must be prepared to lose LaQuinton Ross to next year’s NBA Draft.

Bates-Diop (20), Russell (21) and Tate (52) are ranked by Scout.com. Bates-Diop and Russell are five-star prospects, while Tate is a four-star prospect.