Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, October 16, 2014

The Big Ten has a number of touted freshmen entering the league this season. There?s Indiana?s James Blackmon, Maryland?s Melo Trimble and Northwestern?s Vic Law, to name a few. But the best of all may be Ohio State?s DeAngelo Russell, the favorite to be Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

According to some recruiting services, Russell was the No. 3 shooting guard in the nation. He also is the 11th McDonald?s All-American inked during the Thad Matta era.


?I think with D'Angelo, all I can say right now is I'm very pleased with how he's playing in practice, the strides he's making,? said Matta. ?He's doing a great job of kind of taking the court over every time he steps on the court. How does that factor into once we start playing games, the lights are on?

?He's played in some huge basketball games throughout his high school career, AAU career. And he's come up — two high school national championships with Montverde is impressive. He's going to have some ups and downs, but I like his demeanor. I like the things that he can do on the court, and we've got to keep coaching him and keep him as healthy as we can.?

The 6-5 Russell is the lynchpin of a Buckeyes? recruiting class that?s the best in the Big Ten. He?s joined by swingmen Keita Bates-Diop and Jae?Sean Tate to from an athletic corps of shooters and slashers. Big man David Bell also will be a factor.

And one of Matta?s biggest coups was landing Temple transfer Anthony Lee, a 6-9, 230-pound force who will fill a desperate need in the interior. He?ll join Bell and holdovers Amir Williams and Trey McDonald to give the Buckeyes some options in the paint. In fact, Matta may even have two bigs on the floor at once.

?Yeah, we're still playing with that,? said Matta. ?I think that's one way we can go. We can go with some skilled 4s. I've got four or five guys that can play that position, which is what I like about this team. I think with the addition of Anthony and David Bell and even Trevor Thompson, who — Trevor can't play this year — the competitive nature in practice has been probably something we haven't had in a while, and Anthony definitely factors into that in terms of what he's bringing to the table. Those guys now know if they don't come to play, they'll get embarrassed in practice.?

Indiana has what?s considered by most people to have the second-best class led by Blackmon, who is a sweet shooter. Robert Johnson and Max Hoetzel also can drain the long-range shot.

The third-best class? Maryland, where Trimble will have an instant impact at lead guard.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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