Louisville native D’Angelo Russell arrived this summer at Ohio State as Thad Matta’s 11th McDonald’s All American, and the coach has an immediate use for his new star.
The Buckeyes ranked 221st in 3-point shots made last season, hitting just 5.7 of them a game. But Russell arrives having guided Florida’s Monteverde Academy to a pair of National High School Invitational titles and is known for a shooting touch at 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds.
“I think with D’Angelo, all I can say right now is I’m very pleased with how he’s playing in practice, the strides he’s making,” Matta said Thursday at the Big Ten Conference’s basketball media days in Chicago. “He’s doing a great job of kind of taking the court over every time he steps on the court.
“How does that factor into once we start playing games, the lights are on? He’s played in some huge basketball games throughout his high school career, AAU career. And he’s come up — two high school national championships with Montverde is impressive.”
Russell, who originally attended Central High School, averaged 19.3 points, 4.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds as a senior at Monteverde. He came out of prep school ranked 13th in ESPN’s Top 100, listed as the top player at the shooting guard position.
Much in part because of Russell, Ohio State came in at No. 3 in the Big Ten’s preseason poll released Thursday, behind only Wisconsin and Michigan State.
Cleveland.com’s Buckeyes expert, Ari Wasserman, compared Russell to former Michigan State guard Gary Harris, who was drafted 19th overall this year. Wasserman also said the Ohio State freshman “could take this team to the next level.”
“He’s going to have some ups and downs, but I like his demeanor,” Matta said Thursday. “I like the things that he can do on the court, and we’ve got to keep coaching him and keep him as healthy as we can.”
Russell and the Buckeyes play Dec. 2 against the University of Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center, tipping off at 9:30 p.m. as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Jonathan Lintner can be reached at (502) 582-4199. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanLintner.