The last two days have been quite interesting for head coach Thad Matta and the Ohio State men’s basketball team. On Monday, reports surfaced that forward Daniel Giddens was given his release and was set to transfer. Then, on Tuesday afternoon, reports stated that forward Mickey Mitchell was also set to transfer. To wrap it all up, Matta put out a press release Tuesday night making the departures of Giddens and Mitchell official, along with announcing that guard A.J. Harris will also transfer from the program.
“I have given freshman guard A.J. Harris permission to seek a transfer. Mickey Mitchell and Daniel Giddens have asked for their release as well. We appreciate what A.J., Daniel and Mickey did for our program as freshmen and we wish them well.”
With the three set to transfer, that leaves just one member of the five-man freshmen class that was expected to be one of the best in the country when they arrived in Columbus — forward Trevor Thompson. Freshman guard Austin Grandstaff left the team and transferred to Oklahoma in December.
A big-time recruit from national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, Daniel Giddens averaged 3.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in 18.2 minutes per game. His best game as a Buckeye came in what was apparently his last donning the scarlet and gray, when he had 11 points, six rebounds, and three blocks in Ohio State’s loss to Florida in the second round of the NIT.
The 6-foot-10 forward had a type of athleticism that not many players in college basketball have, at least on the defensive side of the ball. The Mableton, Georgia native has plenty of development that needs to happen in his raw offensive game, but with three years of eligibility remaining, he would have had plenty of time to do that in Columbus. Just nine short days ago, following Ohio State’s loss to Florida to conclude their season, Giddens said “of course” he’d be back with the scarlet and gray next season, per Eleven Warriors’ Tim Shoemaker, but things have obviously changed.
After committing, de-committing, and then re-committing to the Buckeyes, Mickey Mitchell’s first season in Columbus got off to a rough start when he missed the first 10 games of the season due to an eligibility issue. In 23 games (seven starts), he averaged 2.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game. While he struggled at times, the Plano, Texas native showed potential, especially with his passing ability. His offensive game needed improvement, but remember, he was just a freshman.
A.J. Harris, who showed plenty of athleticism and potential — even though he was an undersized guard at 5-foot-9 — averaged 2.8 points, and 1.6 assists in 13.7 minutes per game while appearing in all 35 games for the Buckeyes. The Dayton native had a poster dunk over a 6-foot-9 Florida Gator in what was now his last game as a Buckeye.
With three players now transferring from the program following the 2015-16 season, this is the first time multiple players have transferred from Matta’s squad since 2011-12, when Jordan Sibert and J.D. Weatherspoon left Ohio State and transferred to Dayton and Toledo, respectively.
The Buckeyes may miss Giddens and Mitchell, but their 2016 recruiting class features two big men that will likely receive significant playing time in 2016-17: Mentor, Ohio native Micah Potter and St. Edward’s Derek Funderburk (no relation to OSU great Lawrence Funderburke). Matta and company also have a few offers out for a couple of the Ohio’s best guards that will likely fill the void that Harris’ departure will leave.
With the recent departure of three of the Buckeyes’ freshmen — and a fourth last December — many are beginning to question why these players are deciding to leave Ohio State after just one season. While no one really knows, Matta may begin to receive questions on not only his recruiting classes, but also why players are deciding to leave his program, especially after a disappointing season.
The positive news is that the Buckeyes will still return their top six scorers from last season. The negative, they only have one player remaining from their five-man 2015 recruiting class. The last man of that bunch standing, Trevor Thompson, said that he will declare for the NBA Draft over the weekend, but he is expected to be back with the Buckeyes for the 2016-17 season pending his draft evaluation.