Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
Ohio State Buckeyes coach Thad Matta has secured verbal commitments from two of the top 100 players in the 2014 recruiting class.
Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate are ranked 20th and 69th in the nation, respectively, according to Rivals.com.
The four-star small forwards committed in November, and may provide a talent base that allows Matta to entice other highly touted recruits to join the Buckeyes in the future.
“I think [Ohio State] got off to a really good start,” said Rivals.com national basketball analyst, Eric Bossi. “When you pick up two guys you can play on the wing and are also versatile, it’s an advantage.”
The 6-foot-7 Bates-Diop plays for University High School in Normal, Ill. He plays his AAU basketball for the Illinois Wolves, the same team current Philadelphia 76ers forward Evan Turner represented before becoming a Buckeye.
According to Bossi, Bates-Diop is a fluid athlete that possesses solid shooting ability. His basketball knowledge, however, was the focal point of Bossi’s scouting report.
“He’s very smart. He understands where he needs to be and when he needs to be there in any kind of environment,” Bossi said. “What helps him [in college] is his adaptability. He’s comfortable in fast games or half court, grind-it-out kind of games.”
University coach Bob Fitzgerald voiced much the same praise of Bates-Diop’s game, citing the young man’s calm pace and controlled demeanor on the floor.
Fitzgerald said his length makes him special.
“With a (7-foot-1) wingspan, he poses significant problems in a number of different ways on the floor,” Fitzgerald said.
Perhaps more importantly, Bates-Diop might be as sound off the court as he is on it.
“Keita is as close to perfect as a young man any coach could hope to have in his program. If he has a flaw, it is his excessive humility,” Fitzgerald said. “He is well-respected by his peers, teammates, and our school staff.”
Bates-Diop’s counterpart in Matta’s 2014 class is the 6-foot-5, 210 pound Tate.
Tate is from Pickerington, Ohio, and helped Pickerington Central High School capture the state championship last year.
“He’s an outstanding young man with a beautiful family,” said Pickerington Central coach Jerry Francis. “He’s a great role model for young kids wanting to go to Ohio State.”
Tate is also a member of the All-Ohio Red AAU team, which has sent talent to the Buckeyes in the past. Former OSU players Michael Redd, Jon Diebler, and Jared Sullinger represented All-Ohio Red, as well as current Buckeye point guard Aaron Craft.
Bossi has had the chance to watch Tate perform on the AAU circuit. Both he and Francis emphasized Tate’s motor, aggressiveness, and willingness to defend.
“A lot of kids talk about playing hard and going all out, but he just does it,” Bossi said. “He’s going to be a tough, physical defender.”
For Tate, coming to OSU might finally be the realization of a long-awaited vision.
“It’s every Ohio boy’s dream,” he said.
Matta’s ability as a recruiter, however, has been well-documented in the past, and he might have had an intricate role in Tate’s recruitment.
“I was just sure about how everything [Coach Matta] said to me, I knew he was telling me the truth,” Tate said. “I have no second thoughts about changing my commitment.”
Although Bates-Diop and Tate play the same position, their skill sets may be viewed as complementary.
“I like both these guys a lot,” Bossi said. “Keita is longer, more smooth. Jae’Sean is mean and nasty. You can play these guys together and it makes you really flexible against defenses.”