With Friday’s departures of Derek Funderburk and Braxton Beverly, Ohio State finds itself in a precarious situation entering coach Chris Holtmann’s first season with the program. The departures give Holtmann eight recruited scholarship players plus walk-on Joey Lane, who was awarded a scholarship last year because the Buckeyes had extra ones to share.
This presents a number of obvious challenges for the upcoming season. Here’s a few thoughts on the situation Ohio State is in, and what situation it could have been in if a few things had gone differently.
1. Someone is going to have to help at the point
There are some holes on the depth chart, but this is the biggest and most pressing. Fifteen months ago, C.J. Jackson was still at Eastern Florida State. Now, he’s the only true point guard on Ohio State’s roster after the departures of JaQuan Lyle and Braxton Beverly.
Jackson struggled early but the game seemed to slow down for him by the end of the year. He scored in double figures four times in the final seven games while eventually outplaying Lyle for the starting position. But he only averaged 21.6 minutes per Big Ten game, and he’s not going to play every game.
On June 23, Holtmann said Jae’Sean Tate is a likely option to help shoulder some of the responsibilities there. It’s an intriguing option and just one of many variables that need sorted for the Buckeyes to have many chances to be successful this year.
2. Both Beverly and Funderburk seemed like players who could have helped
Top-100 recruits redshirt all the time these days, so Funderburk sitting out his first season at Ohio State wasn’t an indication that he couldn’t help the program. During preseason practices last year, he outrebounded everyone else on the offensive glass by a two-to-one margin.
Funderburk has legit athletic talent and plenty of confidence. He’ll be a player somewhere, provided he can get his academics sorted out. It's unfortunate for Ohio State that it couldn't happen there.
Beverly, meanwhile, was more under the radar than his fellow Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy product. Initially signed to Miami University before backing out, going through a post-graduate year at Hargrave and signing with the Buckeyes, he wasn’t a top-100 recruit or one seemingly high in demand. And yet, he is likely the school’s all-time scoring leader, he scored 73 points in a game as a senior and was widely praised by many individuals I’ve spoken with for his dedication to the gym and his game.
I’d heard the comparison of Aaron Craft, albeit perhaps with a little bit lower ceiling. Still, it’s hard to argue that the program could have used a little bit more of that attitude in recent years. Beverly actually got to Ohio State in May to get an early start on getting ready for the season.
Thad Matta was one of a few coaches in the country who saw something in Beverly. It’s not clear if Holtmann saw the same things, which might have led to the departure.
3. All the scholarships won’t be used
The two departures mean that Holtmann now has seven available spots for the class of 2018. That’s more than half his roster, and he won’t use them all this year. Keeping seven freshmen happy simultaneously is nigh impossible, and bringing in that many players only to have several transfer out after a year would stunt the growth process for the program.
Plus, the Buckeyes are behind from a 2018 recruiting standpoint. The critical July evaluation period kicks off in two days and they have work to do.
The most likely scenario here is that Ohio State winds up with a solid-if-not-spectacular 2018 recruiting class with four or five players and then is in place for a top-10 class in 2019 – presuming Holtmann and his staff adjust to the Big Ten quickly.
4. What could have been?
Obviously building a roster is a domino effect, so this isn’t an exact science, but it’s fun to look at what Ohio State could have on its roster this upcoming season had any number of things transpired differently.
As it stands, there are 10 players who were in the Ohio State program that could still have been on the roster this upcoming year who are no longer there. Here’s an alphabetical list:
David Bell (R-Jr.)
Daniel Giddens (Jr.)
Austin Grandstaff (Jr.)
A.J. Harris (Jr.)
JaQuan Lyle (Jr.)
Mickey Mitchell (Jr.)
D’Angelo Russell (Sr.)
Trevor Thompson (Sr.-5th year)
There’s some talent on that list. Obviously Russell was never going to play four seasons in college, but still, it’s a fun thought.