COLUMBUS — Chris Holtmann knew Ohio State needed to find a perimeter threat this summer. Cedric Russell perfectly fit the bill.
So, the Buckeyes didn’t wait long to get their guy — and Russell moved quickly to claim the open spot.
The Louisiana guard transfer announced his move on Friday afternoon, with Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reporting that Russell has elected to use his final year of eligibility to join the Buckeyes backcourt. A first-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection this past season, he averaged a team-best 17.2 points per game and ranked No. 20 among all Division I players in 3-pointers made per game. Ohio State beat out Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Marquette and St. Johnâ€™s for Russell.
The addition gives the Buckeyes a much needed point producer.Â With Duane Washington Jr.’s decision to stay in the NBA Draft process, the Buckeyes lost their leading scorer. Replacing what Washington brought to the floor as a leader is impossible, but finding a player capable of producing points at steady clip was a must for Holtmann.
â€œIf we add another player, itâ€™s really going to have to the right fit,” Holtmann said on on The Buckeye Show on 97.1 The Fan on Thursday night. “Weâ€™re not going to go out and find a guy exactly like Duane. I just donâ€™t think thatâ€™s available right now. Iâ€™m not even sure â€” we love Duane and obviously would have loved to have him as a senior, but Iâ€™m really excited for him. But for us it really has to be the right fit for our roster if weâ€™re going to add another perimeter player.â€
Landing Russell would not of happened without the recent hire of Tony Skinn. The new Ohio State assistant coach had a previous relationship with Russell as the two met against each other when Skinn was on staff at Louisiana Tech. Russell also didn’t enter the transfer portal until June 30, a day before he needed to enter portal and retain his eligibility for the coming season. His entry date and Washington’s departure created a perfect timeline as the Buckeyes were able to add the 3-point threat without competing against many teams.
Ohio State now has one scholarship remaining if it chooses to max out its roster.
Russell will help fill the void left by point guard C.J. Walker, too.Â Jamari Wheeler, Jimmy Sotos, Meechie Johnson Jr., Malaki Branham and Justin Ahrens will all compete for roles in Ohio State’s backcourt.Â The Buckeyes roster will look significantly different this winter than a year ago. Holtmann mixed high school recruits with transfers, hoping the blend of talent and experience will help the Buckeyes come tournament time next year.
â€œListen, I think of that very last game every day,â€ heÂ said in May. â€œI donâ€™t think thereâ€™s any other way to look at it. I also think Iâ€™ve reflect on the fact â€” it was an interesting year. â€¦ You reflect on some good things and you own [it], lean into the struggles and figure out how we can certainly perform better in that final game.
â€œI tend to look at the season as a whole, and thatâ€™s hard in todayâ€™s college basketball because people reflect on just the final couple weeks. I do try as much as possible to reflect on the entire season in its entirety.â€
Duane Washinton Jr. and E.J. Liddell proved to be one of the better duos in the Big Ten last season. The two led Ohio State to the brink of the Big Ten Tournament title and had the Buckeyes ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation at one time.
Cedric Russell is not going to be the next Duane Washington Jr. But he can create his own shot and be a scoring threat, making sure Ohio State competes for a conference title and that the Buckeyes offense stays dominant.