Ohio State will open its 2018-19 men's basketball season by playing its first game at Cincinnati in 98 years. The Buckeyes and Bearcats will meet at the newly renovated Fifth Third Arena on Nov. 7, marking only the 11th time the in-state programs have met and the first time they’ve played each other within state lines since 1921. In preparation for the game, The Dispatch is counting down the final 14 days with power rankings for each of the members of the Ohio State roster. The series continues with the 10th player in our rankings.
No. 5: Luther Muhammad
Height/weight: 6 feet 3 / 185 pounds
Jersey number: 1
Background: A product of Jersey City (New Jersey) Hudson Catholic, Muhammad is the highest-rated member of Ohio State’s freshman class in the 247Sports.com composite rankings. A four-star recruit, Muhammad was ranked No. 79 nationally, the No. 15 point guard in the nation and the No. 5 prospect from his state. As a junior, he averaged 15.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game. He has spent significant time playing both on the ball and at shooting guard.
2017-18 stats: As a senior at Hudson Catholic, Muhammad averaged 14.6 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game. He shot 84 percent from the free-throw line, 50 percent from the field and 36 percent from three. During the postseason, he averaged around 25 points.
Need to know: Muhammad also held scholarship offers from Virginia, Xavier, Butler, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, St. John’s and others. His Twitter profile directs readers to a YouTube video chronicling his career. One of his aunts and two of his cousins were Buckeyes, and he has two aunts and a cousin who live in Columbus. Muhammad had been interested in Ohio State for most of his life, but the Buckeyes didn’t recruit him until coach Chris Holtmann took over last summer. He’s drawn comparisons to Scoonie Penn for his style of play, and Muhammad is aware of them. “I hear that sometimes,” he said. “Scoonie’s a great coach. I’m really cool with him. I like his energy and his intensity. That energy, with the energy I’ve got, that’s pretty dangerous. That’s crazy.”
2017-18 recap: Despite being a national recruit, Muhammad wasn’t the primary scoring option on his team — or even the second option. Muhammad played with two five-star recruits: small forward Louis King, who signed with Oregon, and guard Jahvon Quinerly, who signed with Villanova. That allowed him to focus in on the aspects of his game that endeared him to the Ohio State coaching staff — namely, his tenacity and his defense. Muhammad showed a national television audience what he can bring while playing in the 2018 Hoophall Classic on ESPNU. In a matchup with five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley from Bel Air (Maryland) John Carroll, Muhammad drew the primary defensive responsibilities and held the Kentucky signee to five first-half points in a 71-58 win. (here are highlights from that game.
2018-19 outlook: In addition to his childhood fondness for Ohio State, Ohio State’s lack of depth in the backcourt played a significant role in his decision to commit to the Buckeyes. But even if Ohio State wasn’t low on numbers at the guard positions, Muhammad would be ticketed for early playing time based on his demeanor and defensive skill set. Muhammad has seen time at shooting guard and small forward in a three-guard lineup during the preseason and looks ticketed to play significant minutes. Although his perimeter shooting remains a work in progress, his effort level and ability to frustrate opposing guards should ensure a key role for a team with a number of unknowns. “I think he’s talented and capable and has the ability to play on both ends,” Holtmann said during the preseason. “I think he’s a 2-1 or a combo (guard). I think he’s just a guard in today’s vernacular, and that’s a good thing.”
Previous power rankings
No. 6: Kyle Young
No. 7: Duane Washington Jr.
No. 8: Musa Jallow
No. 9: Micah Potter
No. 10: Jaedon LeDee
No. 11: Justin Ahrens
No. 12: Joey Lane
No. 13: Danny Hummer
No. 14: CJ Walker