Are Ohio State's Basketball Transfers a Sign of Trouble?

Bruce Hooley

At first glance, it looks ominous.

On second look, it's not ideal.

But there are reasons behind Luther Muhammad's transfer after two years starting for Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann, and the departures of D.J. Carton and Alonzo Gaffney without either completing one entire season on the roster, that paint each decision in a less-threatening light.

That's not to say there aren't issues in Holtmann's program that need solving, but it's also not to say he's underachieved over his first three seasons or isn't on schedule in building the Buckeyes into a national championship-caliber program.

The primary issue is finding and developing talent that gives the Buckeyes a reliable future NBA player around which to build every season.

Why is that important?

Because it's unrealistic to think an NCAA Championship can be won without at least one such talent in the lineup, although it is occasionally accomplished.

Wesson may be a long-term pro or may not.

Carton and Gaffney seemed that sort when they signed, but now both are gone.

E.J. Liddell might be on track to take that step, as might Duane Washington Jr., although Liddell is the better bet right now.

Transfers Seth Towns and Justice Sueing loom as possibilities, but can't be evaluated until they suit up this coming season in the Big Ten.

So Holtmann has players who can satisfy the need for a transformative NBA talent, albeit none who have entered Ohio State with the five-star label.

But right now, it can't reasonably be argued that Holtmann is behind schedule.

OSU made the NCAA Tournament each of his first two years and was a lock choice this year until COVID-19 precautions cancelled the event.

The Buckeyes rose to No. 2 in the polls in December and life was good.

Then losses to West Virginia and Wisconsin ruined the team's confidence and sent it into a three-week tailspin from which it recovered to win nine of its last 11 games.

Since then, Carton, Gaffney and Muhammad have transferred out,  Wesson has opted to enter the NBA Draft and OSU added Towns and Bucknell's Jimmy Sotos via transfer.

That's a lot of roster turnover, which tempts observers to search for one blanket to cover the entire makeover.

But a more accurate assessment of each situation shows no lack of glaring player management mistake by Holtmann or his staff that could have prevented any of the departures.

The only common theme is each player felt the need, and the wanderlust, to pursue a situation that would get them closer to their dream of playing in the NBA.

Perhaps communicating more clearly with prospects during the recruiting cycle would fix that, but likely not, since each player who signs fancies himself a certain starter from Day One.

When their timeline unfolds differently, a transfer always seems an attractive option.

Whether it actually is, or not.

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