COLUMBUS — Luther Muhammad was always going to be in the Ohio State rotation right away.
Make no mistake about it: The Buckeyes had plans and high hopes for the freshman guard, particularly given how invested he was from the start on the defensive end. And it obviously helped his chances to contribute that he was joining a program still in the relatively early stages of rebuilding the roster.
So Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann is hesitant to make any sort of evaluation while this breakout debut season is ongoing about just how it matches up with his expectations for Muhammad. But surely the Buckeyes weren’t counting on him becoming a guy capable of being the top scorer in must-win Big Ten games, talking trash to provide energy, protecting the basketball in clutch situations and generally becoming a player the program is relying on to help lead the way back to the NCAA Tournament.
“Yeah, I’ve been asked that a lot,” Holtmann said. “We felt like he was going to make a pretty strong, immediate impact. Now did I anticipate that in a game that goes down to the wire that he has 20 points, 4 assists and no turnovers? I’m not saying that. But we anticipated that he was going to make a real impact from Day One.
“Some of that was looking at the roster. We’re kind of building our roster and we knew there was going to be great opportunity.”
Muhammad is certainly making the most of it, and it doesn’t seem like a stretch to consider his emergence as coming ahead of schedule for the Buckeyes.
His production of late has been up across the board. And for any doubters about his ability on the offensive end, Muhammad has two 20-point performances in the last five games as Ohio State has battled its way back off the bubble for the Big Dance and into solid position heading into the stretch run.
What has been the most impressive part of the rise from Luther Muhammad? Former Ohio State standout Terence Dials was back in the Lettermen Row film lab for a BuckIQ episode focusing on the freshman and his importance heading into critical matchups like the one on Thursday against Illinois.
Roll the tape!
Lettermen Row senior writer Austin Ward contributed the editorial content for this post.