Buckeye Ballers in Europe and D-League

The true sign of a basketball brand’s growth doesn’t just expand to the NBA. The professional ranks in Europe can be a tell tale sign of how healthy a college basketball program is. Take a look at the Ohio State Buckeyes under Thad Matta.

There hasn’t been a coach in Ohio State history that has gotten so much talent drafted at the NBA level.

And now they are flooding the gates of European basketball. Here is a look at players that have signed contracts to play overseas or in the NBA Developmental League next season.

Byron Mullens — After struggling to find playing time in the NBA the last two seasons, Byron Mullens decided to pack his bag for China this offseason, after receiving little to no interest from NBA teams during free agency. Mullens, who started over 40 games for the Charlotte Bobcats in 2012, signed a deal with the Shanxi Dragons of the China Basketball Association.  Mullens will join NBA veteran Von Wafer and will look to revive his game and confidence to make a second push in the Association late in the season or next year.

Jon Diebler –Threebler has built himself a great career in Turkey with Pinar Karsiyaka. Last year, he averaged over 30 minutes a game while averaging 13 points per contest. Diebler has improved his overall game, but he’s still carries around the three point dagger that Ohio State fans grew to love. Last year, the former Buckeye nailed 45% of his three point attempts. I’m still blown away that he doesn’t get a closer look at the NBA level. Maybe it’s because of the new contract he signed in the offseason, but Diebler didn’t get any looks in either the Orlando or Las Vegas Summer Leagues. Here is a look at Diebler’s game last year in the EuroChallenge.

Dallas Lauderdale — Lauderdale played amongst the best Ohio State players to ever take to the court. Sometimes, his value to those teams doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

It’s those factors that has his game flourishing at the pro level. Last year for the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Developmental League, Lauderdale was a top candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. He had more blocks than anyone in the D-League and set an Idaho Stampede single season record. While averaging nearly 3 blocks a game, Lauderdale also dropped 8 points and grabbed 9 rebounds per game for the Stampede last season.

What’s been so impressive about Lauderdale’s game is his efficiency. All but seven of his scoring attempts were inside the low post, where he made 68% of those opportunities. Lauderdale had been a staple for the Idaho Stampede, but it’s hard to say where he will be playing this upcoming season. The Portland Trail Blazers dropped their affiliation with the Stampede and now are relying on sending their prospects to Fort Wayne, where half of the league is also sending their future league hopefuls. It’s sad to see the Blazers completely implode their connection with the Stampede.

William Buford — It’s unclear where Buford will take his talents next season, after being traded to the Canton Charge at the deadline last season. It seems that he will remain with the Cavs affiliate but nothing has been set in stone. Buford averaged 20 minutes per game off the bench for the Charge and shot 40% from the floor. We’ll keep you updated if we hear more on where Buford will play next season.

Deshaun Thomas — Thomas struggled in his second attempt to prove the San Antonio Spurs in summer league play. Thomas had a great season last year in Italy and improved his game drastically. Thomas probably would of been given a chance to be a practice body during training camp in late September, but he’ll head back to Italy next season for Sidigas Avellino. Yes, that means that he will compete against ADV and LaQuinton Ross next season. Thomas will more than likely play power forward, which is a perfect fit for him in Euro play

LaQuinton Ross — After making the decision to forgo his senior season, things aren’t looking as promising for LaQuinton Ross as he maybe once thought it would be. Once considered a possible first round pick, Ross went undrafted after a bad NBA Combine. Ross showed up completely out of shape and didn’t impress with his numbers at all.

The Lakers gave him a chance in Las Vegas Summer League, but again Ross didn’t impress enough to steal one of at the time seemed like 10 open roster spots.

According to Sportando, Ross has decided to take his game overseas to Italy, where he will play for Vuelle Pesaro. This team is a great fit because Ross should crack the starting lineup right away. He also should have no problem improving his game at small forward.

Ross will play in the same Italian league as former three point threat Amedeo Della Valle.

Amedeo Della Valle — The sharp shooting ADV never really hit his full stride at Ohio State, but now he starts the journey of a pro career in his home country of Italy. You have to respect a man that realizes it’s time to head back home. After last season at Ohio State, Della Valle signed a contract with Grissin Bon Reggio Emila. He will get his chance to become a national legend though before his pro team takes the court in October.

ADV will compete along Pistons forward Luigi Datome for team Italy when they attempt to qualify for EuroBasket 2015 next week.

Look for Amedeo to get a lot of minutes next season with Reggio Emilia, who were Italian Cup semifinalists last season.

DaeQuan Cook — Cook enjoyed a solid NBA career with the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls. Last season, he started his overseas career in Ukraine. After being waived, he jumped on with the Tubingen Walter-Tigers in Germany. According to Sportando, Cook will play for the Tigers again next season. He averaged 28 minutes per game in the 15 contests he appeared in. Cook proved he could still shoot the trey last year with the Tigers, shooting 35% from downtown.

David Lighty — The all-around stud for Ohio State got another chance to make it at the NBA level this summer in the Orlando and Las Vegas Pro Summer Leagues. In Orlando, Lighty’s all-around game and defense stuck out for the Detroit Pistons, but yet again he suffered from not having one true part of his game stick out. He also competed with Denver in Las Vegas. As the Dispatch’s Bob Baptist pointed out at the end of July, Lighty already has a contract to play in France for Villerbanne — a team that recently signed former Oakland University guard Travis Bader. Lighty is slated to start at power forward, which is a great fit for him in a European style of play.

Othello Hunter — The man that was asked to fill Greg Oden’s role after he left has really put together a nice overseas career. Playing for Montepaschi Siena in Italy last year, Hunter averaged just over 20 minutes per game while scoring ten points per contest and shooting 58% from the floor. He played a major part in his squad reaching the Italian Cup finals.

In early July, Hunter signed with Olympiacos in Greece. He will replace former NBA forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who had his contract voided after he failed a summer physical. Hunter brings a solid post presence to his new squad and could see a good amount of minutes next season in Greece’s A1 League.

Terence Dials — It seems unclear if Dials will return to Europe next season, but thing is certain — if there is a model that future Buckeyes should follow overseas, it’s that of Terence Dials. He shot 55% from the floor last season for Orleans of the France Pro A league. He won’t be returning there next season, but whatever decision he makes we’ll be rooting for him. He’s given a lot back to the Buckeye basketball program. Including mentoring Jared Sullinger, who talked about Dial’s presence in his life in an article written at the New York Times by Pete Thamel in 2012.

“I could always ask Terence Dials things like: ‘What do you do on the screen? Do you set them low or high?’ ” Sullinger said. “I always asked questions, and I really think that’s where my game has expanded, just being a student of the game.”

You have to love players that pay it forward on the hardwood.

Ron Lewis — Lewis played in the same Italian league that will be home for Amedeo Della Valle, LaQuinton Ross and Deshaun Thomas this season. The man best known as the dagger in Xavier’s throat averaged 28 minutes with Enel Basket Brindisi last year, but has since moved on. It’ll be interesting to see where he will play next season. There’s no question that he has the game to be a high level player in Europe. Just check out this alley oop finish from last year if you need any proof.

P.J. Hill Jr. — P.J. had a great season in Greece, playing off the bench for AS Apollon Patras. This year, he signed on to play in Latvia as a member of Liepaja Triobet — where he averaging 15 points per game while shooting 40% from the field. It’s unclear where he will take his game this summer and into the fall.

Evan Ravenel — After spending a season in Bulgaria, Evan Ravenel has made the decision to play in Poland as he signed last week to play for Polpharma Starogard. Ravenel averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds last season and will look to continue his improvement against tougher competition. The former Boston College Eagle turned Buckeye shot 57% from the floor last year.

Good luck to all the former Buckeyes competing in professional basketball this upcoming season.

Joe Dexter

About Joe Dexter

Joe Dexter is a podcaster, writer and former radio news personality with a passion for the Ohio State Buckeyes. He is currently the managing editor of The Buckeye Battle Cry and a contributor to The Student Section. You can also find his daily show, Script Ohio, on VSporto's Buckeye Sports Radio. Joe currently resides in Reidsville, North Carolina.