Ohio State will open its 2019-20 men's basketball season by hosting Cincinnati for the first time in nearly 98 years. The Buckeyes and Bearcats will meet Nov. 6 in Value City Arena, marking only the 12th time the in-state programs have met and the second time in as many years that they’ve played each other within state lines after having not done so since 1921. In preparation for the start of the season, The Dispatch is counting down with power rankings for each member of the Ohio State roster.
These rankings are an educated guess at which players will have the most significant on-court impact during the course of the season.
No. 6: Luther Muhammad
Height/weight: 6 feet 3 / 185 pounds
Jersey number: 1
Background: A four-star prospect from Jersey City (New Jersey) Hudson Catholic, Muhammad was prep teammates with five-star guard Jahvon Quinerly and four-star guard Louis King. Known for his defensive tenacity, Muhammad once shut down Kentucky signee Immanuel Quickley in a high school game. He picked Ohio State from a list of finalists that included Xavier, West Virginia, Virginia and St. John’s. Muhammad was the No. 79 national recruit and the No. 5 prospect from New Jersey, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings.
2018-19 stats: In 34 games, including 28 starts, Muhammad averaged 7.6 points and 2.7 rebounds while playing 26.6 minutes per game. He shot 37.5 percent (36 for 96) from three-point range and had 59 assists against 49 turnovers.
Need to know: Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann was sold on Muhammad when he noticed that he would guard opponents and play as aggressively during an early-morning AAU game with few in attendance as he would in a spotlight game. Muhammad’s brother, Al-Quadin Muhammad, is a defensive end for the Indianapolis Colts. He’s adopted a nickname of “The Lieutenant” and is hoping that it catches on this year. Muhammad sometimes wears a necklace with the letters “EGE”, meaning “Everybody’s (Gonna) Eat”. In short: it means collective success equals team success.
2018-19 recap: In spite of his well-earned reputation for being a defensive stalwart, Muhammad emerged as a legitimate scorer near the midpoint of his freshman season. By that point, he had recovered from a dislocated left shoulder suffered in a loss to Syracuse that would cost him only one game but forced him to play with a protective brace for a while. But after scoring 20 points in a win against Penn State on February 7, Muhammad’s offense took a significant dip.
In the final 13 games of the year after the win against the Nittany Lions, Muhammad went 8 for 34 (23.5 percent) from three and averaged 3.4 points while playing his way out of the starting lineup.
2019-20 outlook: Muhammad will be counted on to play a vital role on a team still searching for steady contributions from the shooting guard and small forward positions where he could find himself playing in three-guard lineups. He’s proven himself to be a top-notch defender, and he showed at times last season that he could take over a game offensively. In the latter category, Muhammad needs to not only find more consistent results while shooting from deep but also to better develop a floater in the paint and finish with more regularity at the rim.
At times, it has been there. At times, it hasn’t. Muhammad spoke at length during the summer about his desire to take his game to a higher level, something that was on display during Kingdom Summer League action. Real college basketball bears little resemblance to those games, but Muhammad’s shooting stroke looked improved and his confidence, as always, seemed sky-high. He will have every opportunity to latch on to a starting spot and figures to be a significant part of the rotation. How big a role he can assume will depend on how efficient he can become and how much he can continue to mature as a player.
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