Luther Muhammad, a two-year starter entering his junior basketball season at Ohio State, has entered the transfer portal.


In two seasons with the Buckeyes, the New Jersey native averaged 7.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 64 games including 56 starts.


As a sophomore, he started 28 games and averaged 7.0 points while shooting 38.3% from the field. He was also well-regarded for his defense, typically drawing the top defensive assignment in each game.


The Dispatch has learned that Muhammad’s decision stems in large part from his desire to have a greater offensive role.


Muhammad is the third player to leave the program after the season, joining freshmen D.J. Carton and Alonzo Gaffney, both of whom left for personal reasons. The Buckeyes have now lost five players to transfer during the last two seasons, the second-highest total in the Big Ten, according to the database of all available transfers compiled at Stadium.com. Nebraska, which underwent a coaching change last year, leads the way at 10.


Nick Mariniello, who coached Muhammad at Jersey City (New Jersey) Hudson Catholic, told The Dispatch that he supports his former player.


"What will make me happy is if he finds what’s best for him," Mariniello said. "He feels this if what’s best for him, then I have to support him whether I agree or disagree. It was an honor to coach him. In my 20-some years of doing this and having 45-some guys going to Division I, he is probably the hardest-working guy in practice every day. If he feels that making a change is best for him, then I have to support him. But I also have the upmost respect for his coach, the assistant coaches and the university because they treated him fairly and with honesty."


As a freshman, Muhammad started the season opener and scored 11 points in a win at Cincinnati. He suffered a shoulder injury that cost him one game that season, but he remained in the starting lineup until a prolonged offensive slump eventually relegated him to a reserve role for the final five games of the season.


He finished the year averaging 7.6 points per game and shooting 37.5% on three-point attempts, but in the final 12 games of the season he went 7 for 30 (23.3%) from three and was 9 for 58 (15.5%) overall.


He returned to the starting lineup as a sophomore and again endured a significant midseason shooting slump but closed the season strong, including a 22-point effort in a home win against Maryland on Feb. 23.


Muhammad, alongside classmate Duane Washington Jr., also was suspended for the team’s Jan. 14 game against Nebraska for "a failure to meet program standards and expectations." Later, coach Chris Holtmann referenced a specific incident that was brought to the attention of the coaching staff. Both players declined to comment further upon their reinstatement, but Holtmann said the suspensions weren’t just about one game.


"I don’t know that there’s a specific message (I’m sending)," Holtmann said. "I’m not coaching for just one game. Ever. I’m not ever doing that. I’m not ever coaching just to win one game or put our best team on the floor for one game. They’re more important to me than that, and it’s more important to me than that."


With Muhammad’s departure, Ohio State has only two true guards on its roster for next season: senior CJ Walker and Washington. The Buckeyes have been linked with multiple transfer players who would have to sit out a season before playing, but Muhammad’s absence means they will also almost certainly look for a transfer with immediate eligibility.


Center Kaleb Wesson, who would be a senior, has declared for the NBA draft but is keeping open the option to return to school. Should he leave, the Buckeyes would have two available roster spots for next season.


Muhammad was a four-star recruit out of high school in New Jersey and the nation’s No. 79 overall prospect, according to the 247Sports.com composite database. He is the second member of his four-man recruiting class to leave after Jaedon LeDee transferred to Texas Christian following their freshman season.


ajardy@dispatch.com


@AdamJardy