Thad Matta has turned the page — and done so quickly.
After the Ohio State coach learned he was losing his leading scorer and rebounder in forward LaQuinton Ross Friday, he brought in someone who looks to be more than capable than filling the void less than 24 hours later.
Meet redshirt-junior forward and Temple transfer Anthony Lee.
Lee can suit up right away for Matta and the Buckeyes because he is set to graduate from Temple in May and as a graduate transfer, can play immediately per NCAA rules. Lee will be looked to bring stability to OSU’s low post presence, which lacked in production this past season.
Lee — who was also being courted by Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Louisville and Notre Dame — told Cleveland.com he chose OSU because of Matta, who told him how much the Buckeyes need him to be an important part of their team next year.
“He was talking about how much I could have added,” Lee told Cleveland.com. “That if I were on the team, maybe we’d still be playing (this year).”
Listed at 6-feet-9-inches tall and 230 pounds, the forward averaged 13.6 points per game last season for the Owls while gathering an American Athletic Conference best 8.6 rebounds per game. OSU’s two primary post players last season, junior centers Amir Williams and Trey McDonald, only averaged 9.8 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game — combined.
Lee expressed his excitement through social media, tweeting, “Buckeye Nation! Too blessed, been thru 2 much an Coach Matta and the Buckeye family knows what I need for this last year. Blessed! !!!” from his personal Twitter account, @AntLee_3, at 2:24 p.m. Saturday after the news of his commitment broke.
Lee had been on a visit to OSU during the end of last week, even posting a video to his Twitter and Instagram accounts of his tour at Ohio Stadium Friday.
The same day Lee posted the video of his visit to the football stadium, Matta and the Buckeyes learned Ross had decided to forego his senior season and pursue a professional basketball career.
“My experience at Ohio State has been incredible,” Ross said, according to an OSU press release. “Coach Matta, my teammates and the staff were amazing to work with on a daily basis. My goal has always been to play at the next level and I believe now is the best time.”
The official announcement from OSU confirmed a March 24 report by ESPN College Basketball Insider Jeff Goodman.
Matta said he was happy for Ross and his decision to leave for the pro ranks.
“LaQuinton was an instrumental part of our success over the last three years,” Matta said in the release. “His goal is to compete at the highest level possible. He will have that opportunity because of the work he has put in to prepare for this day. He will be missed at Ohio State and we wish him nothing but the very best.”
Ross’ exit and the addition of Lee in consecutive days keeps the number of OSU players on scholarship at 11, after the Buckeyes lost sophomore guard Amedeo Della Valle, who decided March 22 to head back to Europe and pursue a professional career. OSU also aims to replace two of the most decorated players in program history in senior guards Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr., who won 119 games during their tenures.
Lee is set to be one of five seniors on scholarship for the 2014-15 season. The others include guard Shannon Scott and forward Sam Thompson, as well as McDonald and Williams.
Matta also added yet another top 5 recruiting class for next season, adding to the roster guard D’Angelo Russell, forwards Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate and center David Bell.
Lee’s frame and abilities typically allow him to feel most comfortable at forward, but he can also play center if the Buckeyes decide to go to a smaller lineup. Either way, Lee said he’s ready to come in and contribute right away.
“I’m a stretch-four, someone who can help out inside or shoot a three,” Lee told Cleveland.com. “It is about expanding my game and helping the team in more than one area. That is really important to me.”