It hasn't been a good week to be an Ohio State basketball fan
If they says bad things come in threes, then maybe the final shoe fell last night
Last Thursday, Ohio State opened the March Madness season by being upset by Dayton 60-59. A loss to an in-state school is never good if you are Ohio State, but with Dayton still playing, maybe the loss wasn't really all that bad after all.
Last night, the leading scorer for the Buckeyes, junior LaQuinton Ross, announced that he would forgo his senior season and make himself eligible for the NBA draft in June. Ross averaged 15 points and 6 rebounds a game this season, and was really the only offensive threat Ohio State had on the floor at times. However, he did force shots, was a defensive liability, and never really fit in Thad Matta's "4 out, 1 in" offense.
The third shoe to drop also happened last night. Franklin's Luke Kennard, the winner of the prestigious Mr. Basketball award this year in Ohio, gave his verbal commitment to the Duke Blue Devils. He chose Duke over the Buckeyes, Kentucky, and Michigan. The Franklin junior averaged 40 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists per game this season.
In a quote to the Coshocton Tribune, Kennard gave his thoughts on the commitment:
It was hard keeping it in from friends — it was a struggle. I felt at peace about it and now I can enjoy my senior year and that’s what it is all about....Franklin's Luke Kennard
By winning the Mr. Basketball award this season, Kennard has a chance to become only the fourth player in Ohio history to win the award more than once. He would join two-time winners Jimmy Jackson and Greg Simpson, and three time winner LeBron James.
What makes Kennard such an attractive recruit?
- He is ranked as the 15th best junior in the country
- Ranked as the #3 shooting guard in the class of 2015
- His shooting range starts when he crosses half court
- At 6'5", he is the ideal size for a college shooting guard
- Kennard plays for the King James Shooting Stars AAU team, where he is joined by Ohio State recruit A.J. Harris, and one of the top sophomores in the country, St. Vincent-St. Mary's V.J. King
- He can create for others. Despite averaging 40 points a game, he did also average 5 assists
- He carries a 4.26 GPA
- He pulled off the rare "50-40-80" shooting line this season. Over 50 percent from the floor, over 40 percent from three point range, and over 80 percent from the foul line
- Kennard was also a first team all-state selection as a quarterback on the football field
In a quote to the Associated Press, Kennard explains his choice of basketball over football:
It’s just been my favorite sport growing up. My dad likes to tell people that I was born with a ball in my hands. Basketball comes a little bit more naturally to me. I just think it would be neat to be in that kind of atmosphere in college....Franklin's Luke Kennard
What does this loss of Kennard mean for Ohio State?.... Losing the top player within your own state is never a good thing. However, Ohio State does have three shooters coming in next year as freshmen that could ease this loss. Kieta Bates-Diop, DeAngelo Russell, and Pickerington Central's Ja'Sean Tate are all shooters in the mold of Kennard that should see plenty of playing time next season, especially now with Ross leaving for the NBA. Ohio State needs "bigs" in the worst way, and is still heavily recruiting Ohio's second ranked junior in VASJ's Carlton Bragg.
Why Duke?.... Simple numbers. Duke has the top recruiting class in the country coming in next season. They have potential "one and done" candidates in Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justice Winslow. Throw in the possible departure of junior guard Rasheed Suliamon after next season, and the opportunity to play right away is attractive.
Ohio State fans: Losing Kennard is a big deal, but it isn't the end of the world. It could have been a lot worse.
He could have chosen Kentucky