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A.J. Harris is latest player to depart Ohio State men’s basketball program

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OSU freshman guard A.J. Harris (12) scans the court during a game against Northern Illinois on Dec. 16 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor

OSU freshman guard A.J. Harris (12) scans the court during a game against Northern Illinois on Dec. 16 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor

When it rains, it pours on the Ohio State men’s basketball team.

For the third time in two days, a freshman has left the program after a lone year in Columbus. On Monday, it was center Daniel Giddens. Then, forward Mickey Mitchell said goodbye a day later. Now, point guard A.J. Harris announced his intentions to continue his collegiate career elsewhere.

“I have given A.J. Harris permission to seek a transfer,” said OSU coach Thad Matta in a press release.

Harris appeared in all 35 games for the 2015-16 Buckeyes, starting four times. The Dayton native struggled offensively through much of the season, averaging 2.8 points per game on 32.3 percent shooting. He added a rebound and 1.7 assists per contest. He only scored in double figures once, an 11-point performance against Purdue on Jan. 21.

Standing just 5-foot-9, Harris became a fan favorite in large part due to his ability to dunk. He showed off his hops on two occasions, including a powerful left-handed throwdown in the final game of OSU’s season against Florida.

Matta tried to harness Harris’ energy on the occasions that he got the starting nod. He stepped in for fellow freshman guard JaQuan Lyle for the four-game stretch in January when Lyle and the team were slumping.

The departure of Harris likely puts an end to the unexpected mass exodus of talent from the program. While OSU came into the year with zero rotation players expected to leave due to graduation or to enter the NBA draft, it has been quite the opposite.

Harris is the fourth player to seek a transfer since the season began, with the three this week joining guard Austin Grandstaff in December. Interestingly, all four of those players were part of the 2015 recruiting class. Lyle, in fact, is the only one of the five-man recruiting class still remaining in the program.

“We appreciate what A.J., Daniel and Mickey did for our program as freshmen, and we wish them well,” Matta said in the release.

However, Matta can likely feel safe that the recruiting class won’t be lost completely, as Lyle, the top recruit of the group, has been vocal in his desires to remain at OSU since the season ended. Lyle has even taken it upon himself to criticize his former teammates, tweeting “Grass ain’t always greener on the other side” on Tuesday in reference to Giddens and Mitchell.

Another player, redshirt sophomore center Trevor Thompson, has temporarily left the team to enter the NBA draft. But due to rules in place beginning this year, a player is allowed to keep all of his NCAA eligibility as long as he doesn’t hire an agent. Therefore, it is probable that Thompson will be wearing scarlet and gray again for the 2016-17 season.

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