In one afternoon Ohio went from having one of the best 2014 recruiting classes in the Mid-American Conference, to having a near-bare cupboard.
After a long standoff initiated by former head coach Jim Christian leaving to take the same position at Boston College,three members—Tariq Owens, Rodell Wigginton and Nehemias Morillo—of Ohio's signed members of its 2014 recruiting class were granted their releases as reported by Jason Arkley of the Athens Messenger.
The school had held off on granting the releases in hopes of allowing new head coach Saul Phillips the chance to convince them to stay. But after two weeks, having met with all three of them and still signed member Kendall Crute, the school let the three players out of their binding NLI's.
All three players are now eligible to sign with other schools, without restrictions.
Owens, a prep schooler out of Maryland, is easily the biggest loss for Ohio. A Top 100 recruit in the 2014 class, according to Scout, he has all the promise of developing into a dynamic low-post option and has a gift for stuffing shots. He was the first member of Christian's class way back in June. Wigginton and Morillo were both athletic JUCO wings who would have had two years of eligibility remaining and would have been eligible in Athens right away.
The loss of the three players means Ohio now has five scholarships to play with before the end of the Division I basketball signing period on May 21. Crute, a 6-foot-3-inch point guard, and the No. 17 prospect in the state of Georgia, is "all-in on Saul ball" according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
The 'Cats are losing several key pieces from a team that won 25 games in 2013-2014. Shooting guard's Nick Kellogg, Travis Wilkins, wings Ricardo Johnson and T.J. Hall, and power forward Jon Smith have all ran out of eligibility. There's been some rumors that Johnson, who suffered a season-ending injury in the non-conference finale this past season, could petition the NCAA for a medical redshirt, however he exceeds the 30 percent of games limit and there is little precedent to suggest the NCAA would suggest such a move.
One of the top pieces from Ohio's 2013 recruiting class, wing D.J. Wingfield, was medically disqualified earlier this spring after complications from a knee surgery that saw him sit out his freshman season.
Ohio is now without a natural 2-guard on the roster for the foreseeable future, so guard will be an obvious point of interest for Phillips. Expect Ohio to look to add some size to its front-court, and maybe an additional point guard as well.
Time for Saul-ball to work some of the magic that lured talent up to icy Fargo over the past decade as an assistant and later head coach of the North Dakota State Bison.