Recruiting for college basketball programs can prove to be a make or break aspect of the game.
As former Ohio State men’s basketball head coach Thad Matta spoke to the press regarding his exit with the Buckeyes, it was clear recruiting proved to be one of the key breaking points in why Matta will no longer be head coach of the team.
Matta and OSU Athletics Director Gene Smith had a meeting shortly after the season ended, and it appeared they had come to a sort of agreement regarding future plans. But the recent struggles with recruiting sparked another conversation, this time with a different ending.
“We weren’t winning the battles in recruiting that I thought we might have a chance to win, as (Matta) did. And so we started talking about that on Friday, which was three months or so after that meeting we had,” Smith said. “It’s the flow of the conversation (that) took to me to the reality that you know what … maybe it’s time for us to make a leadership change. And he agreed.
“Recruiting, as we all know, is the lifeblood of this program.”
It became clear in recent years that recruiting for the Buckeyes was not as easy as it once was. Matta said that the whole process of recruiting talent has changed since he first joined the OSU program, and that recruits seem to have a different mentality than they once had.
“When I think back, the easiest recruitment I’ve ever had in my time at Ohio State was two guys named Greg Oden and Mike Conley because they didn’t want to be recruited,” Matta said. “Great players did not want to be recruited. They looked at a situation and said, ‘Can I get what I want out of there and give them what they want?’ When you try to tell people that today, they’re like, you’re nuts.
“But just looking back on that, it’s definitely changed in terms of — (and) I’ve tried to explain to recruits — I started two guys in an Elite Eight game to go to the Final Four in (2004) at Xavier. Neither one of them were top 200 high school players coming out, but that’s one of those things that you’ve got to adjust and find a way.”
One of the key issues for their Buckeyes became their inability to recruit in-state talent. They lost out on big recruits from Ohio, including a recent decommitment from Darius Bazely, a class of 2018 small forward and Cincinnati native.
Arguably no year proved more detrimental to OSU’s success than 2015 when Matta and the Buckeyes missed out on all three of the top recruits from their home state — forward Carlton Bragg, shooting guard Luke Kennard and forward Esa Ahmad.
And though neither Smith nor Matta pointed to any one disappointing recruiting year in the press conference, it was clear a priority for the school was winning the recruiting battles in its home state.
“Thad and I talked about the next two years in Ohio and frankly, when you look at what he had transitioned to do, was to kind of get back into Ohio and the Midwest,” Smith said. “The next person that we attract will have a major focus in Ohio and actually a 150 to 200 mile radius.”