When next season begins, the Ohio State men’s basketball team will return with four of its five starters from the 2009-2010 campaign. But the one missing, Evan Turner, left a gaping hole in the Buckeyes’ roster when he declared for the NBA Draft last week.
Turner led OSU in points, rebounds and assists this season and, after winning the Wooden Award Saturday night, will carry six national player of the year awards with him to June’s draft. But when OSU tips off its 2010-2011 season, none of that will matter, and the team must find a way to fill his shoes.
“Obviously losing him is going to change a lot for our team because he did so much on the court for us,” guard Jon Diebler said. “We know we have a lot to work on, as a team and individually, but even with Evan leaving, we’re still very confident with who we have coming back and who’s coming in.”
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, as Diebler mentioned, they will welcome arguably the nation’s best recruiting class to Columbus next season. Highlighted by Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas, the six incoming recruits could go a long way to replacing Turner.
However, with Turner gone, and with seniors P.J. Hill and Jeremie Simmons also leaving the program, there will be no returning point guard. One of the incoming freshmen, Aaron Craft, plays the point, but is probably the fourth or fifth-most heralded newcomer in the class.
Diebler, who was coached in middle school by Craft’s father, said that while Craft might not be as talented as some other future Buckeyes, he can certainly hold his own.
“He’s a tough kid, just like all the kids coming in,” Diebler said. “He knows a lot about the game and his IQ is really high, and that’s something you can’t teach.”
Regardless, it seems unlikely that Craft will be able to step right in and run the OSU offense as a freshman. That leaves the likely possibility of one of the current Buckeyes making a position switch.
Just as Turner did a season ago, somebody will have to quickly adapt to a new position. Diebler and forward David Lighty seem to be the most obvious candidates.
Lighty proved to be one of the few Buckeyes that can consistently beat people off the dribble and create his own shot, which would make the position switch somewhat seamless. Diebler played point guard almost exclusively in high school, and although his role has been much different in college to this point, he said he wouldn’t be opposed to returning to his roots.
“I wouldn’t mind it,” Diebler said. “I just want to do whatever helps us win. It’s going to be my last year and Dave’s last year and I know we’re all going to work on our ball handling.”
For Lighty, despite losing Turner and no matter who ends up playing point guard, the expectations are still high.
“We never lower our standards here just because he’s leaving,” Lighty said. “I believe with him, obviously we’d be that much better, but without I believe we still have a great team.”