Big big news out of Columbus this weekend with the decision of freshman point guard Anthony Crater to transfer from Ohio State. I must say that I was shocked to hear it. Crater was a pretty big recruit and the future at point guard for the Buckeyes, and I think he probably would have been starting by the mid-point of this season. He is saying that he didn't like the style of play at Ohio State, and he thought he was going to be starting from day one (he is currently behind a JUCO pg on the depth chart).
Anyway, the article in the Columbus Dispatch seems to indicate that Crater has ND down as one of the schools he is considering. ND has had some good luck with transfers in the past, and I think he would be a good get for the Irish if he has his head on straight. I've only seen Crater in a handful of games, but he has talent and great potential. He's sort of a Tory Jackson type player who can get to the bucket, but he's a good passer and good defender. In the ND style offense, he could be really successful.
ND needs to find a point guard in one of the next two recruiting classes. If we got Crater, he could be ready to play as a backup to Tory by next January and then take over the point guard job in 2010. Could be an intriguing scenario. It would be nice to have another point guard on the roster next year, so that we have don't have growing pains in 2010 of a freshman point guard.
On the other side of the coin is the crumbling empire of Thad Matta and Ohio State basketball. I don't know what is going on with his program, but they can't seem to hold onto guys or create any stability. They've now had 4 one and dones (Oden, Conley, Cook, and Koufos), one more likely one and done (Mullens) who is whispering that he wants out, and two high-profile transfers who left in their freshmen years (Crater and Evan Wallace). That is some serious turnover. If Mullens leaves after this year, this vaunted 2008 recruiting class will basically be wiped out. In other words, it was a complete waste to spend 3-4 years recruiting those guys.
I don't know how Thad is going to ever build a stable program at Ohio State when he has to revamp the roster every year. Matta is creating a scenario where he is going to be relying on freshmen and sophomores every single year. You can't win that way. One of the most important aspects of being a head coach in college is that you need to be a good program manager. You need to have a long term plan for how to build a program in terms of recruiting and roster management. I think Thad Matta is a very good basketball coach, but we've never really had a chance to see him at a program for more than a couple of years. He was only at Butler for 2 years and only at Xavier for 3 years. Now that he's in his fifth year at Ohio State, he's starting to show some serious flaws in terms of building a roster. It seems like Thad is either chasing one and done superstars or JUCOs and marginal guys. There's no middle ground of 4 year quality starter types.
Managing your roster is half the battle in college basketball. If you can't get your players to commit to the team and think long term as being part of the program, you aren't doing your job. Even though I knocked Rick Barnes for his coaching abilities, there is no denying that he knows how to manage a program and keep his blue-chip recruits happy and hungry. Can I take back what I said about Matta compared to Rick Barnes? That might be the dumbest thing I've said.
If I was Thad Matta, I would get out of the AAU scene for awhile. He somehow convinced himself that he needed to get into the AAU scene to win at Ohio State, and I just don't think he's an AAU kinda guy. Matta is a young guy, but he's more of an old school coach who likes to win with defense. And yet I'm getting the impression from the players and their AAU coaches that Matta was out on the recruiting trail promising all these guys that they'd be starting from day one and that the team would be up-tempo and that they'd build the offense around them. Those are flat-out lies. It's almost like Thad told his recruits whatever they wanted to hear just to get them to come to Ohio State even though he had no intention to follow through with his promises. You can't do that with players, and Thad is going to start getting a bad reputation in the AAU world if he doesn't watch it. Koufos's high school coach was bashing Thad last spring, and now we have Crater's AAU coach just killing Thad in the paper. Not a good sign. He has 2-3 "Burger Boys" coming in for 2010, but why wouldn't a guy like Tom Crean or some other coach be calling those guys right now and saying that Thad can't hold onto his players?
If you are going to recruit AAU types, you better be prepared to deal with egos and handlers and all that. And if you tell recruits that you are going to be up tempo and then play slowdown Big 10 basketball, you better be prepared for players to start getting upset and wanting out. Thad is a good coach who can win with rugged Midwest kids who are team players, and that's the type of kids he should be going after for the next few years. Get the 3-4 star types to build a foundation and then go after the right fits from the elite level.
As an ND fan, I like what Mike Brey has done with regards to recruiting. I know he gets some flak from ND fans about his recruiting, but I'd rather have underrated, committed 3 stars than some hot dog 4-5 star who doesn't want to play team ball and starts griping if he isn't getting his shots or minutes or whatever. Brey finds these underrated kids who know how to play the game and care more about the team than their stats.
On second thought, I don't know if I'd even want somebody like Crater on ND's roster unless he really just didn't like Thad and needed a change of scenery. His AAU coach was basically implying that Crater was on the "2-3 year plan" to the NBA, which is complete nonsense. That kid is going to be LUCKY to get drafted after a four year career no matter where he goes.
Finally, I wanted to put in a plug for my man Bob Huggins. When it's all said and done, Bob Huggins will go down as the most underrated basketball coach of the last 25 years in my opinion. He absolutely took Thad Matta to school on Saturday. I've seen him do it for years, so it wasn't exactly a surprise. And for anyone who thinks that Huggins can only win with "thugs", take a look at his WVU teams. Those kids are regular college kids, and he went to the Sweet 16 last year and most likely will have another dangerous team this year.
Huggins is a WINNER, period. He could win anywhere. He won at Walsh College, he won at Akron and took them to the NCAAs, he won UC when they were a hoops dormat, he won at Kansas State, and he is now winning at West Virginia. Huggs is an Ohio guy, and I actually think Ohio State should have hired him a decade ago after Randy Ayers got fired in 1997. He would have been phenomenal at Ohio State, and it's a shame that OSU didn't have the guts to go after him back then.