COLUMBUS — Ohio State is still waiting on NBA decisions from E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington Jr.
Each declared for the draft earlier this spring, choosing not to hire agents to retain the ability to return to the Buckeyes if they opt out of draft waters. But neither have removed their names from the draft, leaving Ohio State in a precarious position.
The duo will head to Chicago this weekend for the NBA G League Elite Camp. The trip gives them a chance to showcase their skills in front of NBA and NBA G League scouts, coaches and front-office executives. With five-on-five games and strength and agility drills, there’s an opportunity for Liddell and Washington to be noticed.
Neither have been mentioned in projected mock drafts to this point.Â Meanwhile, the July 7Â deadline to withdraw from the draft and retain NCAA eligibility looms.
“We’re waiting on the decision of two guys I love in E.J. and Duane,” Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann recently said on 97.1 The Fan. “I’ve never been in a situation right now, if these two guys feel like it’s best for them and they return, we’ll have a tremendous team and tremendous opportunity this year. If they both decide it’s best for them [to head to the NBA], then we’ll have to figure some things out. We still got some really good players but it will change the dynamic of our team, for sure.
“The deadline for that decision went back a month. … Our season didn’t move back a month, the NBA didn’t do that. We have to keep moving forward, but we’re trying to support those guys as they make their decision.
There’s no questioning whatÂ the return of Liddell and Washington would mean for the Buckeyes. Holtmann admitted in in his interview that having the two players back would immediately make Ohio State the favorite to win the Big Ten and compete for a national title.
Liddell was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season, the best all-around player on the roster and a reliable go-to scorer. Washington had his moments where his shot selection was questionable, but he was arguably the team’s top playmaker. His 24-point, six-rebound, four-assist performance in Ohio State’s win over Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals showcased that.
With the G League Elite Camp this weekend and the NBA Draft combine next weekend, Liddell and Washington will have their final opportunity at showing off their talent in front of executives and scouts.
Chris Holtmann will be paying attention, too, rooting for his players to do well. But he also knows what another year with the duo would mean for Ohio State.