NCB On The Trail: Keita Bates-Diop

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The Buckeyes have the nation's No. 5 class, and it is loaded with versatility. ESPN No. 22 Keita Bates-Diop leads this class and is a combination of a power forward/small forward. His shooting touch extends to the arc, and he has the size to produce in the paint, which makes him hard to defend.

He scores in the low post with turnaround shots off the glass and faces the basket with quick drives along the baseline. He can pass and has good length to block shots, which is a strength.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta does a great job of helping his players find success by moving them to different spots on the floor. Matta can play Bates-Diop at the power forward spot and play small ball or put him at the small forward position and have a big lineup. He's comfortable defending a couple of different positions and is a very valuable piece to the Buckeyes' future success.

Recruit and return: Ohio State 

March, 20, 2014
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In order to return to the NCAA tournament, a team needs contributions from both returning players and incoming recruits. Here's a look at Ohio State and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starting five:
G: Shannon Scott
G: D'Angelo Russell
F: Sam Thompson
F: LaQuinton Ross
C: Amir Williams

Flyin' to the Hoop Invitational recap 

January, 21, 2014
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DAYTON, Ohio -- The Good Samaritan Flyin' to the Hoop Invitational is a four-day basketball showcase held annually over the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. It matched great local and in-state talent with highly ranked teams and players from across the country.

Here are a few players who stood out in this high-level and very competitive environment.

Most Explosive Wing

Kelly Oubre (Richmond, Texas/Las Vegas Findlay Prep)
2014, SF, 6-foot-7, 190 pounds
Signed: Kansas
Oubre is what a major college wing is supposed to look and play like. The No. 10 overall player in the ESPN 100 finished above the rim with flair. His explosiveness and ability to finish in heavy traffic was terrific. He draws fouls when he attacks the painted area and knocks down the deep 3, especially from the corners, with ease. Oubre will need to continue to develop his mid-range game and work to be a better on-ball defender, of which he is very capable. Overall, Oubre is a big-time wing who will find a way to contribute immediately next season for the Jayhawks.

Best Variety of Shots


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Buckeyes ink three ESPN 100 prospects

November, 14, 2013
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Ohio State officially landed a RecruitingNation Top 40 class on Thursday with the announcement of four student-athletes signing letters of intent.

Joining the Buckeyes in 2014 will be ESPN 100 SG D'Angelo Russell (Louisville, Ky./Montverde), ESPN 100 SF Keita Bates-Diop (Bloomington, Ill./University), ESPN 100 SF Jae'Sean Tate (Pickerington, Ohio/Central) and three-star center David Bell (Garfield Heights, Ohio/Garfield Heights).

Ohio State head coach Thad Matta landed a verbal commitment from ESPN 100 C Payton Dastrup (Mesa, Ariz./Mountain View) last week, but Dastrup changed his mind on Wednesday and signed with BYU.

The early signing period arrives Wednesday, marking the first time 2014 prospects can officially sign their national letters of intent, turning previously unbinding verbal commitments into contractually binding scholarship agreements.

Here are 10 storylines to watch for during the eight-day signing period:

Jahlil Okafor
AP Photo/Damen Jackson via Triple Play New MediaJahlil Okafor is hoping to sign during the early signing period. Where will he end up?
1. Package-deal decision day
Word is that Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are both hoping to sign during the early period, and that means the country’s biggest package deal should have a decision within days. All indications are that the duo still intends to go to school together, but the final destination has become unclear of late. Duke has long since been considered the front-runner, but there’s been growing chatter for Kansas, especially as it pertains to Okafor. Baylor is the dark horse, and while nobody seems to be talking about the Bears anymore, neither prospect has said they’re out of the running just yet.

2. Awaiting word from Alexander
We’re anticipating an announcement from Cliff Alexander, the nation’s third-ranked prospect. The 6-foot-8 big man took the nation by storm during the recent EYBL season and picked up offers from some of college basketball’s most prestigious programs in the process. Four of those remain in the hunt for his services. While Illinois and DePaul have been the perceived favorites, Kansas and Memphis are in the mix as well. Look for Alexander to trim one of those four off his list before his announcement -- and ultimately make his choice from a list of three final schools.

3. Early or late? That is the question
While Okafor, Jones, and Alexander are all expected to make their decisions in time to sign during the early signing period (that is, on or before Nov. 20), there is another group of prospects we still don’t know what to expect from. Justise Winslow just took his last visit, and he could be ready to decide. William Lee is another ESPN 100 prospect who could very well be ready in the coming days. Stanley Johnson was once targeting a January decision, but he now appears to be on the fence, as there has been mounting speculation that he could abandon those original plans in time to sign early.

4. What’s left for the spring?
With 87 players in the current ESPN 100 already committed and at least four more expected to make their decisions in time to sign early, we’re expecting over 90 percent of the current ESPN 100 to officially be off the board within the next 10 days. That’s an almost unprecedented percentage, leaving very little left on the table for the spring’s late signing period. The big prizes for those playing the waiting game are likely to be Myles Turner, Rashad Vaughn and JaQuan Lyle, along with any of the previously mentioned top prospects who ultimately decide against early signatures.

5. Care for a contingency plan
With so few prospects remaining on the board following this period, the major question is what happens to the programs that have gone the distance with top remaining prospects -- only to end up missing out on them. The best examples are Duke and Kansas. The Blue Devils and Jayhawks have gone head-to-head for Okafor and Jones and have passed on other talented guys as a result. Now they’re in a spot where the consequences of losing out on Okafor and Jones could be especially high, with no good contingency plans left on the board unless they’re able to score Turner, who isn’t likely to be excited about being perceived as anybody’s runner-up.

6. Competition for Kentucky
Kentucky currently has the top-ranked recruiting class in the country. If the Wildcats can hold on to that spot, it would be the fifth time in John Calipari’s six years in Lexington he has secured that distinction. The reality, however, is that it may be unlikely. And while Kentucky’s class is undeniably loaded, the 2014 group will be remembered as much for the guys who passed on the Wildcats -- Okafor, Alexander, Jones, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kelly Oubre and James Blackmon Jr. among others -- perhaps signaling a decline in what has been one of the most dominant recruiting periods for any program in recent history.

7. The Big East is back (or never left)
If this season's recruiting class is any indication, the demise of the Big East has been somewhat exaggerated. While conference realignment might have forever changed one of the country’s most historic conferences, it apparently has not done much to hurt the brand. Xavier, Seton Hall and Georgetown have all put together top-10 classes, and Marquette and Providence are not far behind. With five different programs among the top-20 classes in the country and a total of 15 ESPN 100 prospects having already popped for the Big East, the league is recruiting as well as any in the country.

8. What’s the Matta with this class?
Ohio State has the second-ranked recruiting class in the country, a group loaded with four ESPN 100 prospects and another big man who is just on the cusp of that list. Yet nobody seems to be talking about the Buckeyes. With so much attention being paid to the potential classes at Kansas, Duke and Kentucky, Ohio State has flown under the radar. The reality is that coach Thad Matta did his work early and did it well. D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate are all coming in next year, and Payton Dastrup is essentially joining the Class of 2016 after he takes a two-year Mormon mission. The Buckeyes have solidified their future as well as any program in America.

9. Talking about the Tar Heels
Roy Williams and North Carolina are in a similar situation. They have a trio of ESPN 100 prospects on board for next season, all ranked among the top 15 prospects in the country. However, because all three were already committed by last May, the Tar Heels haven’t been at the forefront of any recent recruiting headlines. It’s a mistake to sleep on them, though, as they have one of the country’s best scorers on the wing in Justin Jackson, a swingman with elite athleticism; an alpha-male mentality in Theo Pinson; and one of the most dependable point guards in the country in Joel Berry.

10. Mid-major impact
A quick glance at the class rankings will show that the mid-majors are once again well-represented among this year’s top recruiting classes. San Diego State, VCU and UNLV have all asserted themselves as national recruiters. Steve Fisher’s four-man class is headlined by a trio of ESPN 100 products in Malik Pope, Trey Kell and Zylan Cheatham, while Terry Larrier and Mike Gilmore lead a similar four-man group for Shaka Smart and VCU. Dave Rice and the Rebels have one of the best incoming frontcourt tandems in the country in Goodluck Okonoboh and Dwayne Morgan.

Buckeyes land ESPN 100 C Dastrup

November, 7, 2013
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Ohio State landed its fifth recruit from the 2014 class on Thursday evening when ESPN 100 center Payton Dastrup (Mesa, Ariz./Mountain View) announced his pledge to the Buckeyes.

Dastrup chose Ohio State over BYU and Virginia. He joins a Buckeyes class that ranks No. 2 in the nation and features ESPN 100 prospects D'Angelo Russell (Louisville, Ky./Montverde Academy), Keita Bates-Diop (Bloomington, Ill./University) and Jae'Sean Tate (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington Central) along with 3-star center David Bell (Garfield Heights, Ohio/Garfield Heights).

Paths to the top recruiting class 

October, 24, 2013
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We’ve been talking a lot about class rankings in recent weeks. North Carolina and Ohio State have both been in the lead at various points this year while strong finishes from Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and even Baylor could put them all in contention for the top spot before it’s all said and done.

With that in mind, we took a speculative look at those six programs, breaking down what they would likely need to get to the top of the mountain.

Duke
Probability of finishing on top: 45 percent

ESPN 100 SG Grayson Allen might be the only prospect currently in Mike Krzyzewski’s incoming recruiting class, but the Blue Devils have as many top prospects left on the board as anyone. They’ll host Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones this weekend, along with Justise Winslow, leading to speculation that they could be on the verge of a massive package deal. They also remain in the mix for Myles Turner, Kevon Looney and Reid Travis. If they land Okafor and Jones, they’ll have a good chance of finishing in front. If they can add Winslow, Looney or Travis, their chances will be even better. If they could ever put Okafor, Turner and Jones in the same group, the rest of the class would be gravy. Suddenly we’d be talking about one of the best recruiting classes ever.


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Biancardi's Breakdown: Small forwards 

August, 26, 2013
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The small forward position is probably the most diverse in basketball, with many different types of players performing in different locations on the floor.

What defines the position is to perform by scoring and defending outside and inside the arc as well as within the paint. Versatility becomes paramount as the small forward should be able to score in different fashions.

A small forward will guard many different players with a multitude of talents, so to be athletic enough, strong enough and tough-minded will be vital. Defensive versatility is important factor.

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MILWAUKEE -- The Under Armour Summer Jam presented by NY2LA Sports was one of the must-see July events for college coaches. More than 900 college coaches from all over the country made the trek to Milwaukee for last year’s event and the arena was packed just as packed this time around, as coaches piled in to get a firsthand look at the elite talent.

The event -- in its fifth year and organized by Antonio Curro -- attracted elite travel teams from across the country that competed in pool play and a single-elimination tournament with each squad guaranteed to take the court four times.

This year’s event had significant star power, especially in the frontcourt with top-10 seniors Cliff Alexander (No. 2), Karl Towns Jr. (No. 6), Kevon Looney (No. 9) and Myles Turner (No. 10) facing off in high-level matchups with few -- if any -- empty seats in the gym.

Here’s a breakdown of how the elite bigs and others top prospects performed during the five-day event.

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The first July evaluation period has come and gone, but not before a number of elite prospects made their mark on the court at events like the Nike Peach Jam, adidas Invitational and the LeBron James Skills Academy.

We brought back national recruiting director Paul Biancardi’s #AskCoachB mailbag to answer any questions you may have on the busy month and which recruits and classes are making waves. As a reminder, you can always get Paul’s take on any prospect or find about new recruiting activity anytime on Twitter using the hashtag.

In this week’s mailbag, Paul examines UNC’s possibilities for landing an elite shooting guard in its 2014 class, what Ohio State should add to its second-ranked recruiting class, Ed Cooley turning Providence into a serious player in recruiting and whether Justise Winslow and Florida recruit Brandone Francis are in line for a bump in ranking in the next ESPN 100.

So let’s get rolling with your questions.





He comes home with a gold medal from Prague, and I heard he was a very valuable member of that U-19 team. His ability to pass, defend, handle the ball, combined with his basketball acumen impact without needing to score makes him special. At times, he can even bring the ball up the floor with a point guard’s mentality. He’s part of a small group of guys outside the top 10 who have a strong chance at cracking the top 10 in our next rankings.

On his status in the proposed package deal of Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, I think Winslow would like for it to happen. But after going overseas and playing this summer, he’ll see his decision and future should be more about a school that fits his needs rather than trying to fit his needs with someone else’s. I’m sure all three are trying to make it happen, but the longer it goes the less of a possibility it will happen.





Providence has been a legit team in recruiting from the moment Ed Cooley got hired. That’s how he won at Fairfield and he did a tremendous job evaluating talent as an assistant at Boston College. Now as the leader at Providence, he’s not only doing a great job evaluating talent, he’s bringing those top guys in. When you look at Ricky Ledo (No. 21 in 2012), Kris Dunn (No. 23 in 2012) and Brandon Austin (No. 56 in 2013), that’s three big players he signed, and then add a commit from current ESPN 100 SF Jalen Lindsey, and you can see how big of an impact he’s had in a short time. Providence recruiting was instantly upgraded with his hire and the Friars are in great hands going forward.





I will say I love the Buckeyes class right now as it boasts skill, versatility and two guys who can flat out score in Keita Bates-Diop and D’Angelo Russell. With that said, it’s obvious they still need to add some size to the frontcourt despite earning a pledge from three-star center David Bell.

I can’t say who they will land but some of their biggest targets on their board are top-10 recruits Jahlil Okafor and Myles Turner. Now the Buckeyes are in the running to win the Okafor and Jones sweepstakes, but if they miss out, Turner would be a great consolation prize. Other potential targets are forwards Leron Black and Paul White and center Elbert Robinson, all of whom would be great gets for the No. 2-ranked team in the ESPN Class Rankings.




I see them finishing out the July and August event season and then taking some official visits together in the fall. I would say the earliest we can expect a decision is the early signing period (mid-November). They still need to take some official visits and sort things out before making a pledge.




The Tar Heels are looking for someone who can score and shoot with range. Someone like No. 11 senior prospect Rashad Vaughn would fit that bill. He’s the most dynamic scoring guard in the class and he does it from all three levels: Behind the line, inside the arc and driving to the basket. This guy has a knack for putting the ball in the basket, he just needs to cut down on his attempts and become more efficient. If Vaughn is out the mix, the Heels may go after Georgia scorer Ahmed Hill, the No. 33 overall player and eighth-rated 2-guard.




He’s an intriguing prospect who has had a good summer. I saw him play well at adidas and at the LeBron camp and he had a strong showing at NBA camp. He has a strong body and the ability to score on the perimeter and in the paint or post up to get buckets down low. I like his skill level and IQ and his body. When you factor all those things, he has a chance to move up depending on how strong he finishes the summer. Right now he’s at 34, but he has the ability to crack the top 25.




When most coaches recruit, they think about finding the right fit and need in a prospect. When you talk about fit and need, it usually revolves around a player’s offense, skill level, size at the position and basketball IQ. Some coaches will look at defensive attributes depending on their scheme, but in large part coaches recruit more for offense, IQ and athleticism because they can teach defense later in the process. It’s harder to teach a guy to be more skilled or athletic than it is to teach defense.

I look at scouting through a similar lense when evaluating players for the ESPN 100 rankings. You look for attributes and qualities that will make a good offensive player a strong defender, whether it’s his ability to rebound, stay in front of guys or take charges. For big guys, I have put an emphasis on how they defend ball screens, cover the low post and hedge out as well as skills and IQ.


We’re back with another edition of the #AskCoachB Twitter mailbag. Once again, ESPN National Recruiting Director Paul Biancardi is on hand to answer fans' questions regarding the recently released ESPN player rankings, and other recruiting inquiries.

In this week’s mailbag, we tackle the hotly contested decision to move Cliff Alexander ahead of Tyus Jones, behind top senior recruit Jahlil Okafor in the top three; break down Ohio State’s current four-man class; and discuss UNLV recruit Dwayne Morgan’s drop in the ESPN 100. You can have your recruiting questions answered by Biancardi on Twitter at any time using the hashtag, but only the best questions make this blog.

Now on to your questions.



I love their quartet of committed players because they’re different but all high-level prospects. Keita Bates-Diop has a prototypical small forward body along with great shooting ability, touch and range. And when he’s not facing the basket, he can post you up and get buckets in the low and midpost.

D'Angelo Russell is a finesse scoring guard who can slide over to the point because of his ability to facilitate, utilizing his hoops acumen and vision. He’s already a good 3-point shooter and can get to the rim with ease, but he needs to work on his middle game to complete his game. Jae’Sean Tate is a physically imposing player for his size (6-foot-5, 190 pounds) and is a relentless rebounder and terrific finisher. He’s probably the most physical perimeter player we’ve seen this spring/summer. David Bell, a big man with a lot of upside, rounds out the Buckeyes’ 2014 class.


Karl Towns has extraordinary touch and range as a shooter and he’s an above-average passer -- all that at 7-feet tall. Like most big guys, who often blossom later in their careers, he’ll need extra time to develop. Right now he stands out on offense when facing the basket, but his low-post game is evolving. Towns will have to get his body in optimum physical condition for him to maximize his potential.

As for his future, guys with his combination of size and skill usually don’t stay in college very long. He’ll be at Kentucky in the near future, where he should significantly impact the game whenever he’s on the floor. The only question is, will he impact contests on a consistent basis, or just when he feels like it?

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10 things to know about the 2014 class 

June, 12, 2013
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The new player rankings are out and the 2014 class of rising seniors has graduated from the ESPN 60 to its initial full ESPN 100. As this group of prospects takes center stage in a new recruiting cycle, here are 10 things you need to know about the Class of 2014.

1. Potential landscape-altering package deal

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Buckeyes land versatile weapon 

June, 7, 2013
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There's no better way to begin a weekend than to win a national recruiting battle. Thad Matta's Ohio State Buckeyes found themselves in position to pop a cork Friday night when ESPN 60 guard D'Angelo Russell (Louisville, Ky./Montverde) popped for Matta's crew.

The Buckeyes edged Michigan State and national champion Louisville for the services of a versatile, highly regarded guard. Russell, known best for his catch-and-shoot effectiveness and scoring acumen for National High School Invitational champion Montverde Academy (Fla.), brings a dual-threat element to Matta's backcourt. He is ranked the nation's No. 24 overall prospect in the Class of 2014


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ESPN 60 SF Jackson releases top six 

January, 9, 2013
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Thad Matta was probably smiling around noon Wednesday afternoon, especially when the Ohio State basketball coach read what an ESPN 60 junior from Texas had to say about the Buckeyes.

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Ohio State went into enemy territory and nabbed a power forward who add a lot flexibility to the Buckeyes' roster in two years.

What Keita Bates-Diop (Bloomington, Ill./University) will bring to the Buckeyes shows up beyond the stat sheets as he can spread the floor and cause mismatches virtually everywhere.

[+] EnlargeBates Diop
Scott BurgessKeita Bates-Diop, who became the first verbal commitment to Ohio State's 2014 basketball class, has a 7-foot-3 wingspan on a 6-foot-7 frame.
The 6-foot-7 high school junior, who committed to Ohio State on Sunday, is ranked No. 27 in the ESPN 60. With touch around the rim, he uses his height in the low post to rise above defenders and is a marksman as a passer.

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