The names we throw around bring nothing but nostalgia, joy, and warmth.
It’s been a chilly, gray week in Columbus, Ohio. A light drizzle has been falling for the past two days, the Buckeyes got tested pretty good by Tulsa last weekend, and college basketball is still over a month away. As the kids say, “the vibes are not great.”
Because this week has been kind of a dud, why not harken back to better times? How about the best of times? Unfortunately, we make the rules here, so regardless of what you think, we’re going to anyway. Let’s turn back the clock and talk about the Thad Matta era of Ohio State men’s basketball. Specifically, which players(s) were the most undervalued, underrated, and under-appreciated.
But before we get to that, a recap of last week’s #Nuts.
Last week, we asked you which Ohio State men’s basketball loss has hurt you the most. Perhaps we should have specified a time period, because neither Connor nor Justin’s choice won the vote (although Justin was close). The “other” option took it home with 51% of the vote, Justin’s Oral Roberts pick garnered a very close 46%, and Connor’s 2018 Penn State loss collected just 3%. Congratulations to Connor, who appears to have made the single worst pick of the whole year. Cheers!
A big thanks to the folks who commented on the article and replied to the piece on Twitter (@LandGrant33). A few games that people mentioned for “other” were….
- 2007 National Championship loss vs Florida
- 2012 Final Four loss vs Kansas
- 2011 Sweet Sixteen loss vs Kentucky (this one was mentioned a lot)
- 1992 Elite Eight loss vs Michigan
After 20 weeks:
(There has been one tie)
Back to the topic at hand: For a player to qualify for this prompt, they either needed to play for Thad Matta (2004-2017) or have been recruited by Thad Matta and still played at Ohio State (so, basically Kaleb Wesson and Justin Ahrens, if my math checks out). We are not debating the best player under Thad Matta, because we know Mark Titus would certainly take that one home. We are picking the most underrated, underappreciated, etc.
Who deserves more love than they got back in the day?
Today’s Question: Who is the most underrated player from the Thad Matta era?
Connor: David Lighty
First of all, how about those shorts, huh? I’m sure I’ll get a silent “tsk tsk” from the older crowd, but 2010 sure qualifies as “the good ole days” to me. Take me back to when shorts nearly reached the ankles and elbow-jumpers were still hot. Oh, baby.
Anywho, David Lighty never averaged 13 points in a season, yet his name is scattered all over the Ohio State and NCAA record books. How is that?
First off, Lighty pretty much played in every single game for his entire five-year career, including his junior year which was cut short due to a broken foot. Even as a freshman in 2006, Lighty still played in all 39 games, averaging just under four points per contest.
Lighty was never a standout in one area of the game, but he was reliable and had no clear weakness (maybe free-throw shooting, but not really). He averaged over 12 points per game both his senior and redshirt senior seasons, and in both years Ohio State made it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. He chipped in 4.5 rebounds and 3 assists per game his senior season, and 4 and 3.3 the following season (redshirt senior).
At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, he was big enough to guard wings and quick enough to cover guards. His defensive versatility was a major asset in college, and it still is now that he’s a professional. It’s also a major reason why he played over 30 minutes per game ein ach season after his freshman year.
To put into perspective how often Lighty’s name is listed in the Ohio State record books, here’s a quick rundown of all the records that he either holds himself or is in the top 10 for:
- One of 58 1,000-point scorers in program history
- Three-pointers made in a game (7) – sixth-highest amount, he did it twice
- Season three-point field goal percentage (42.9% in 2010-2011) – sixth-highest in program history
- Career steals (191) – fourth-highest in program history
- Games played (157) – Most in NCAA history
- Games started (125) – fourth-most in program history
- Career wins (129) – Most in program history
After his freshman year, Lighty never shot worse than 44% from the floor. By the end of his Ohio State career, he was one of the premier shooters in college basketball. For the entire time, he was a première defender, acceptable passer, and an admirable rebounder.
However, as they say, the best ability is availability, and boy was he available. Maybe he wasn’t the most talented player on the floor, but Matta found a downright winner in that Cleveland kid, and he rewarded Ohio State for it with plenty of wins during his five-year career.
Justin: Jon Diebler (Three-bler)
First of all, look at that picture and tell me he doesn’t drain a three two seconds after? I’m just saying we have all seen it before.
There are a lot of players that I believe were underrated during the Matta era (and some that were overrated, but that is for another day). Guys like William Buford, Shannon Scott, Jamar Butler and of course Connor’s pick of David Lighty (if you are a Buckeye fan who doesn’t adore Lighty, you aren’t a Buckeye fan), but there is one guy who I think doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves.
One of the greatest three-point shooters in college basketball history, Jon Diebler.
Diebler came to Ohio State as the kid who scored 77 points in a high school game and Ohio’s all-time leading scorer with a ridiculous 3,208. He is still the only player to crack the 3,000 point mark and is ahead of Ohio high school greats like Jerry Lucas, Luke Kennard and yes, LeBron James. Don’t forget that Diebler scored 48 points in the state championship game with a broken nose.
Diebler entered Columbus as a four-star recruit and was the No. 60 prospect in the country, the No. 14 shooting guard in the class, and the top player in the state of Ohio, also earning Mr. Basketball honors in the state.
Diebler has his name in the Ohio State record books as well, scoring 1,536 points. He also holds the record for career three-pointers made with 374, the second place person being Jameer Nelson all the way back at 242.
He holds three of the four single season three-point records, his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. He made 116 three-pointers during his junior season in 2010 and 114 during his senior season in 2011. That is 3.1 three-pointers made per game. Simply an insane stat in terms of consistency. He also has the most three-pointers made in a single game for the Buckeyes at 10. 10. That’s cold blooded.
He only averaged 10 points per game through his career, but he averaged 32.6 minutes for his career. He was thrown into the fire early on and made it count right out of the gate.
Diebler will go down as one of the greatest shooters in college basketball history and has worn the Buckeye name well, all the way to The Basketball Tournament this past summer. As a Buckeye fan, I miss him. I know you do too.