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8 OHIO STATE

Nov. 20, 2006
Nov. 20, 2006

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Nov. 20, 2006

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8 OHIO STATE

The Buckeyes' improving floor leader must guide the talented but tenderfoot Thad Five by example

Two years agocoach Thad Matta was on the road recruiting when he got a conference call fromhis assistants, who were back in Columbus conducting preseason workouts."They said, 'You better find a guard, because Jamar Butler can'tplay,'" recalls Matta, who had just taken the job. "He was only goingfive miles per hour, while his gauge went to 100. He had no idea what he wascapable of doing."

This is an article from the Nov. 20, 2006 issue Original Layout

A few years underMatta's tutelage have opened Butler's eyes. "When I saw how hard [formerguard] Je'Kel Foster went in a workout, it clicked for me: That's what it takesto be good player in college," says the junior guard from Lima, Ohio. Sincethen Butler has improved every aspect of his game, most notably his helpdefense and his long-range shooting. (His freshman year he shot 23.0% from thethree-point line; last season he shot 41.4%.) His scoring increased from 3.6points per game in 2004--05 to 10.1 last year, and he had a 2.53assist-to-turnover ratio, earning third-team All-Big Ten honors as well as aspot among the preseason Wooden Award candidates for '06--07.

"Jamar is agreat example for our younger guys," says Matta. "He came in here asOhio's Mr. Basketball but didn't have a work ethic. It took him a while toadjust to the college game, but he has done a phenomenal job."

Those"younger guys" would be the four freshmen of the much-ballyhooed ThadFive recruiting class. They include guards Daequan Cook and Mike Conley Jr.,and guard-forward David Lighty--as well as Conley's better-known teammate fromIndianapolis's Lawrence North High, 7-foot Greg Oden. As talented as they are,the freshmen face a steep learning curve in addition to an unforeseen obstacle:After undergoing off-season surgery to repair a ligament in his right wrist,Oden has had only limited practice time and won't play until after Jan. 1.

With only ninescholarship players, Matta will rely on all four freshmen as well as 6'9"junior college transfer Othello Hunter, a power forward. "We're trying toteach these guys how to compete at this level," says Matta. "I findmyself having to slow down. We're trying to get consistency overgreatness."

Butler, the onlyreturning full-time starter from last year's Big Ten title team, has been theleader on the court and the mother hen off it. One weekend in September he hadthe whole team up to his parents' house to celebrate his 21st birthday."That helped us get closer because it got us out of the basketball worldand into the real world," says senior guard Ron Lewis. "It showed wehave great camaraderie anywhere."

They'll need it,because real-world basketball (without their 7-footer) is about to begin.

STARTINGLINEUP

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Jamar BUTLER6'2"Jr.10.1 ppg4.6 apgPGMike CONLEY JR.6'1"Fr.16.5 ppg4.0 apg--KEY RESERVE--CGreg ODEN†7'0"Fr.22.0 ppg10.5 rpg

RETURNING STARTER*JUNIOR COLLEGE STATS †HIGH SCHOOL STATS

BIG QUESTIONS

How will theBuckeyes handle early tests against No. 3 North Carolina and No. 2 Florida? ...Can 6'8" junior Matt Terwilliger carry the load in the post while Oden isout? ... How long will it take for Oden to get up to speed?

SCHEDULE

Nov. 10 VMI*

Nov. 17 EasternKentucky

Nov. 20 SanFrancisco

Nov. 24Youngstown State†

Nov. 29 at NorthCarolina

Dec. 2Valparaiso

Dec. 9 ClevelandState

Dec. 16Cincinnati‡

Dec. 19 IowaState

Dec. 23 atFlorida

Dec. 30 CoppinState

Jan. 2Indiana

Jan. 6 atIllinois

Jan. 9 atWisconsin

Jan. 13Tennessee

Jan. 17Northwestern

Jan. 20 Iowa

Jan. 24 atNorthwestern

Jan. 27 MichiganState

Jan. 31 atPurdue

Feb. 3 atMichigan State

Feb. 6Michigan

Feb. 10Purdue

Feb 14 at PennState

Feb. 18 atMinnesota

Feb. 21 PennState

Feb. 25Wisconsin

March 3 atMichigan

*BCA Classic,Columbus, Ohio †Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio ‡Wooden Tradition,Indianapolis

FAST FACTS
COACH: Thad Matta (3rd year)
2005--06 record: 26--6
Big Ten record: 12--4 (first)
NCAA tournament: second round

PHOTOPHOTOGREG NELSONMOREBANG FOR THIS BUCK
Butler hiked his scoring by 6.5 points per game last year and upped his stealsand rebounds.