Note: As I was putting this post together, it was announced that there will be a press conference with Jared Sullinger and Thad Matta this afternoon at 2:15 p.m. The likely reason for this presser is that Sully will announce his intention to enter the NBA draft. It might be a good sign that Deshaun Thomas isn’t involved, or it may mean nothing. Either way, we’ll know more later. The presser will be streamed live at ohiostatebuckeyes.com.
Today we’ll complete our 2012 shooty hoops report cards for Ohio State’s bench players. Yesterday we gave you our final grades for Evan Ravenel, LaQuinton Ross, J.D. Weatherspoon and Amir Williams. Today we’ll look back at the season performances of Shannon Scott, Jordan Sibert, Sam Thompson and Trey McDonald. Tomorrow we’ll give out our grades for the starting five. Like yesterday’s group, today’s players are varied in their prominence in the rotation.
Although it’s difficult to really judge a bench player’s performance, one thing you can do is to look at what the player was asked to do. In some cases, a player is asked to do very little, while in others the coaching staff expects more of a contribution. Today’s group of players had very disparate roles on the team, and some changed over the course of the season. The things Jordan Sibert and Sam Thompson were asked to do when the season began did not resemble their areas of responsibility at season’s end. As we look at what they accomplished this season, we must keep in mind the way Thad Matta wanted to use them versus how he dispersed their duties later in the year. The grades are after the jump.
Shannon Scott: C
The freshman point guard appeared in 36 games this season, averaging 10.6 minutes. Though he contributed only 43 points all season (1.2 per game), Scott grew quite a bit as the season went on. He gained confidence in running the offense, limited his turnovers in the second half of the season, and became a steady defender capable of spelling Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. He played at least half the game three times, including 20 minutes in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Loyola-MD, and a season high 23 against Jackson State. He set a career high with eight points against VMI in November, and notched six assists in a game twice. He finished with 60 assists, fourth most on the team. He posted 18 steals and two blocks, to go along with 38 rebounds. His 1.67 assist-to-turnover ratio wasn’t bad, and he had either one or zero turnovers in each of his last nine games. Limiting turnovers and playing good defense are keys to getting more playing time in Thad Matta’s rotation.
However, it was curious that he didn’t play at all against Kansas in the Final Four and saw less than a minute of action against Syracuse in the Elite Eight, because in the previous three tournament games he averaged 15.7 minutes. The obvious area that needs improvement is his offense. Scott shot just 28.2% from the field, hit only one of 18 treys (5.6%) and made only two of nine free throw attempts (22.2%). He turned down open looks repeatedly, possibly on coaches’ orders, but having seen his high school film I know he can shoot. It’s likely a simple matter of confidence. If he does start to produce offensively, he would team up with Craft to become what could be one of the best backcourt tandems in Ohio State history.
Jordan Sibert: D
Jordan Sibert was possibly the most disappointing of all the sophomores this season. It appeared the Buckeyes would count on Sibert heavily as a sixth man when the season started. He averaged 15.2 minutes in Ohio State’s first 14 games, averaging four points. He played a career high 24 minutes Dec. 3 vs. Texas-Pan American and reached double figures in scoring twice—11 on Nov. 18 vs. Jackson State and a career high 12 vs. Northwestern on Dec. 28 (all from behind the arc). On the season, he posted 28 rebounds (5 offensive), 18 assists, 11 steals and a block. He was given every opportunity to nail down the sixth man’s spot. In fact, word out of preseason camp was that competition with Lenzelle Smith Jr. for the 2 guard spot was very close before Smith eventually claimed the position.
But Sibert struggled to knock down his outside jumper all season, finishing with a field goal percentage of 30.4 (26% 3FG). So his shot basically improved only one percentage point over his freshman year. He even struggled from the foul line (10/18 for 55.6%). What’s worse, his defense was, at best, inconsistent. He fell out of favor in the rotation as the season wore on, playing only 53 total minutes in nine outings after New Year’s Day (5.9/game). His average minutes dropped to 4.3 over his last seven contests, and he did not play in 14 of Ohio State’s last 18 games. Last year we gave Sibert a C, but it would be far too generous to give him that grade for his sophomore campaign. He could become a useful player if he fixes his jump shot and steps up defensively, however the rumors are flying that he will transfer, possibly to Ohio. We would prefer it if he became the lights-out outside shooter the Buckeyes were missing in 2011-12 and will need in the future.
Sam Thompson: B-
If any of the freshmen improved more than Shannon Scott over the course of the season, it was Sam Thompson. Of course he thrilled us with his high-flying, acrobatic dunks, but if you want a true taste of how Thompson improved as a player, just watch the first half of the Kansas game again. He played 12 minutes and recorded three blocks, two rebounds and an assist, while playing outstanding defense. Slammin’ Sam played in all 39 games, averaging 10.6 minutes and a hair over two points. He grabbed 40 rebounds (10 offensive) and dropped 27 dimes, with 17 blocks and seven steals. His three swats in the Final Four equaled his season high (at Nebraska). He twice scored eight points, against VMI and South Carolina-Upstate, the latter in his season high 21 minutes played.
He worked his way higher and higher into the rotation all year, becoming the usual first option whenever William Buford or Deshaun Thomas went to the bench. As the year progressed, he started looking less and less lost with his positioning on the defensive end. Next year, Thompson will have to prove he can do more than dunk, offensively. He needs to develop his jump shot and build confidence in it so that he stops passing up open looks. He’ll also need to improve his rebounding—his season high was only three, and that happened just twice. That can’t happen for a guy with his hops. It will be interesting to see how his role within the team develops.
Trey McDonald : Incomplete
The 6-8 freshman center from Battle Creek, TSUN, appeared in only 13 games this season for a total of 38 minutes, and basically served as Thad’s victory cigar. He played more than three minutes on only three occasions, with a season-high seven against both VMI and Jackson State back in November. McDonald scored only two points all season, but they came in the B1G semifinal against TTUN, so they should count double. He pulled down six rebounds (three offensive) and registered one assist with four turnovers. Big Mac hit only one of his six field goal attempts and did not get to the line. He didn’t appear in any NCAA tourney games.
On the plus side, McDonald was involved in his limited minutes, notching only four trillions in his 13 appearances. In three of those he played only one minute—the other was a three trillion at Nebraska on Jan. 21. We really didn’t see enough of Trey to find out what he can do, but it’s clear that he’s a project who may never produce significantly for the Buckeyes. With his size, we’d like to see him blossom into a useful post player.