Departure Of JaQuan Lyle Adds To Ohio State Basketball's Losses
Another offseason brings another departure of a player once thought to be a key part of the future of the Ohio State men's basketball team.
In an announcement that even caught the team's beat writers off guard, Ohio State says point guard JaQuan Lyle quit the team more than a month ago.
The news came after Lyle was arrested for disorderly conduct, public intoxication, and criminal mischief to a vehicle last weekend in his hometown of Evansville, Indiana. Lyle is accused of punching a police cruiser after leaving a bar.
Lyle was the final remaining member of the 2015 recruiting class, which at the time was heralded as one of the best in the nation. The other four members - Austin Grandstaff, Daniel Giddens, Mickey Mitchell, and A.J. Harris - transferred after their freshman year.
Their reasons varied from family obligations to a lack of playing time.
Another Ohio State player, David Bell, announced earlier this year he's transferring to Jacksonville to be closer to his pregnant girlfriend.
It's still not clear why Lyle quit the team. Ohio State says he quit April 11. The school's student directory still lists Lyle as enrolled, and his Twitter account still portrays him as a member of the team.
"You have to hold the people who brought these people in accountable to a certain extent, and so certainly a portion has to fall on (head coach) Thad Matta's shoulders," says Columbus Dispatch reporter Adam Jardy.
Jardy was among those surprised to hear Lyle had quit the team several weeks before his arrest. Jardy says Lyle told him on May 1 that he was committed to returning to the Buckeyes next season.
"The turnover that Ohio State has had for two straight seasons, it certainly raises questions," Jardy says.
Matta has been regarded as one of college basketball's best recruiters and coaches after taking teams chock-full of future professional players deep into the NCAA tournament. Matta led the Buckeyes to two Final Fours, including an appearance in the 2007 national title game.
But the big wins have been fewer and farther between in recent years. The Buckeyes have failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament in each of the last two years, and even failed to make the less-prestegious NIT Tournament last season.
Matta earned a salary of $3.39 million in 2016.
"(The loss of players) will absolutely hurt recruiting going forward," Jardy says. "The best thing that Ohio State could try to do right now is they can sell the fact that there is opportunity, because right now there are nine players on scholarship for next season. They have four scholarships available, and that's not knowing if Kam Williams is coming back or not."
In March, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith released a statement voicing support for Matta.
“While we are not currently where we aspire to be with our performance on the court, Thad understands better than anyone that component has to improve," Smith wrote in a statement. "I am confident in his leadership to return the program to the winning ways that we have all enjoyed during his 13 year tenure."