Ohio State Basketball: Every Projected Starter's Signature Highlight
The college basketball offseason is a time for looking ahead to the upcoming campaign and reminiscing on past glory.
Thad Matta has given Ohio State fans plenty of memories to look back on during his tenure in Columbus, including multiple Final Fours, a National Player of the Year and a consistent domination of archrival Michigan.
The current players on the Buckeye roster have been a part of some of those memories. With that in mind, read on to see the signature highlight of every projected starter for the 2013-14 season.
LaQuinton Ross: Introduction to the Nation
There is a general consensus among many college basketball experts that LaQuinton Ross is ready to break onto the national scene and become a star player for Ohio State in the 2013-14 campaign.
He flashed his potential numerous times throughout his first two years on campus (much more so in the second year) but is yet to put it all together. That began to change during the 2013 NCAA tournament, never more so than in the final seconds of the Buckeyes’ Sweet 16 victory over Arizona.
Ross tallied 17 points and carried the offense for long stretches in a tightly fought contest. But it was his game-winner in the final second that serves as his signature highlight and Ross’ official introduction to the college basketball nation.
Amir Williams: Elite Eight Relief
Amir Williams doesn’t have a lot of signature highlights from his first two years in Columbus, but he did play a pivotal role in Ohio State’s Elite Eight victory against Syracuse in the 2012 NCAA tournament.
The freshman Williams had to come on early in relief for superstar Jared Sullinger because of first half foul trouble. Considering Williams barely played all season, it was easy to feel pessimistic as a Buckeye fan with the team’s best player on the bench so quickly.
Williams played an admirable nine minutes, scoring three points, grabbing four rebounds, swatting two shots away and even doling out an assist. He controlled the paint against the Orange’s frontcourt and kept the Buckeyes in the game until Sullinger returned in impressive form in the second half.
It is still the crowning moment of Williams’ Ohio State career.
Sam Thompson: Columbus Air Show
Sam Thompson’s signature highlight is the fact that he is a walking highlight.
His arsenal of high-flying and inspiring dunks awakens the Schottenstein Center crowds more so than anything, except maybe Aaron Craft drawing a charge. He gives fans a reason to stick around until the end of blowout games but also seizes momentum for the Buckeyes in critical contests with well-timed slams.
If forced to pick one signature dunk from Thompson it would have to be the alley-oop finish he displayed against rival Michigan last season (starts at the 1:00 mark in the video). The overall meaning of the game and the timing of the dunk (Michigan had all the momentum after crawling back from a sizable deficit) make it the choice.
That being said, West Lafayette is still feeling the aftershocks of Thompson’s throwdown over A.J. Hammons (who just so happens to be the starting center).
Lenzelle Smith Jr.: Sigh of Relief
Lenzelle Smith Jr. isn’t the flashiest player and is rarely in the position where he would be asked to make a game-winning shot, so picking a signature highlight isn’t a straightforward ordeal.
Smith has been inconsistent for much of his Ohio State career (he can be the best player on the floor for extended stretches but he can also completely disappear for entire games), but he played particularly well during the Buckeyes’ Final Four run in the 2012 NCAA tournament.
His signature highlight came in the Sweet 16 against Cincinnati. Ohio State had built a double-digit lead in the first half, but the Bearcats came roaring back after intermission and seized the lead and the momentum.
It turned into a back-and-forth affair, but Smith drilled a backbreaking three with 7:54 left in the game. It put the Buckeyes up five and set off a 26-13 run to end the game. The Scarlet and Gray, largely due to Smith’s 17 points, won 81-66 and reinforced their current spot as Ohio’s top college basketball program.
Aaron Craft: Iowa State Dagger
Aaron Craft is the clear fan favorite on the current Ohio State roster, but his offensive game (or lack thereof at times) has caused consternation among the faithful.
It looked like his jump shot shortcomings were going to cost the Buckeyes their second game in the 2013 NCAA tournament against Iowa State. Craft struggled mightily down the stretch and was hamstringing the Scarlet and Gray with turnovers and missed shots.
Nevertheless, Craft showed his leadership and mental toughness by drawing a critical charge and giving the Buckeyes an opportunity at the end of the game. It was an opportunity that Craft firmly seized by drilling the game-winning three and immediately turning himself into the hero.
It is a bit of an ironic twist that the defensive stalwart’s signature highlight is a three-point shot, but this was the clear choice for the Ohio State leader’s prime-time moment.
Follow and interact with Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.