Ohio State basketball signee B.J. Mullens is counting the days down now.
On Sunday, the 7-1 Mullens will graduate from Canal Winchester (Ohio) High School. On June 15, he will move in at Ohio State, where he will start classes a day later.
“I can’t wait to get in there June 15,” Mullens said. “That’s when I go. I know it is a great plan for me to get in there. I’ll be able to work on my strength (with OSU strength coach Dave) Richardson over the summer and that will help me get ready to go.”
Last week, Mullens received a plaque as the Huntington Banks/Ohio High state co-player of the year in boys basketball. It was fitting that he shared that honor with fellow OSU signee William Buford, a wing from Toledo Libbey. That was especially true since Mullens and Buford were the only Ohio players selected to play in both the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Game.
They are part of a six-man incoming recruiting class rated third nationally by ESPN.com. They are joined by fellow high school standouts Walter Offutt and Anthony “Noopy” Crater at guard and junior college transfers Nikola Kecman at power forward and Jeremie Simmons at guard.
“I am excited to be a part of that class,” Mullens said. “I am probably closest with Walter. I’ve known Walter since I was a freshman. William and I have developed a good connection. We’re just going to have to come in and play.”
Mullens has been committed to Ohio State since early in his freshman year at Canal Winchester World Harvest Prep. OSU coach Thad Matta had seen Mullens at a camp that summer and offered him. As a Columbus native, Mullens wasted no time in accepting.
“It is unbelievable,” he said. “I committed my freshman year. I had my brothers and family telling me that high school was going to go by very fast. I said, ‘No, there is no way it’s going to go by fast.’ It seems like just yesterday I was a freshman. It seems kind of scary, but I am also excited to go. When I get up there June 15, I will be ready to go.”
Mullens spent two seasons at World Harvest before transferring to Canal Winchester. He enjoyed two huge seasons for the Indians. As a senior, he averaged 26 points and 14 rebounds a game. That included a school-record 62 points in a game against a New York school in January.
The transfer helped Mullens both on and off the floor, he said.
“It was a great time,” Mullens said of his time at Canal Winchester. “I wish I would have come here my freshman year. Just the jump from World Harvest to here was a big jump. I learned a lot more on the basketball court and in school. On the court, I became more physical and also learned more about the mental side of the game. My shooting percentage went way up as well. I was in the 50s at Harvest and my senior year I was at 71 or 72.
“Coach (Kent) Riggs taught me a lot. I just want to say thanks to him.”
Mullens had hoped to form a twin towers look at Ohio State with 7-0 Kosta Koufos. But Koufos opted to enter the NBA draft after one year with the Buckeyes. Mullens talked about how Koufos’ departure will change his role.
“Kosta had a great opportunity and he took it,” Mullens said. “I don’t blame him at all. I have talked with the coaches and we have talked about what my role might be. They just want me to be in shape. They talk about the four-minute wars. Every four minutes, they take a TV timeout. They said if they can get me in good enough shape to play in two of those four-minute wars – the first eight minutes – then they would sub me out a little bit.
“They want me to come in and be that trash man and just get rebounds and score points. It’s a big role to play. I know it will be tough down there by myself, kind of like Kosta was this year. But it’s going to be all right. It will be a great opportunity and it will make me better.”
Mullens talked about what his schedule will look like once he enrolls at Ohio State for the summer quarter.
“It’s going to be fun during the summer,” he said. “They say it’s not too bad. We work out in the morning. Then you go to class. I am taking two classes this summer. One class is two days a week and the other is every day. Then, we play open gym at 4 p.m. and we have the rest of the day off.”
Mullens, of course, has been a regular open gym participant at OSU ever since he committed.
“I have been up there and played with them,” he said. “What you notice is the intensity and the hustle. They never take a play off. From open gym to high school to open gym in college, if you don’t get back on defense they’re going to be yelling at you. I have just noticed that from just going up there the past four years and playing in open gyms.
“From my freshman year to my senior year, I think I can hold my own. Terence (Dials) is back and he’s playing up there some. Greg Oden will be back and will play there some this summer. Mike Conley has been there playing with us and teaching us some.
“David Lighty has been stepping up and being a leader. He’s the oldest guy on the team now.”
One of the big stories in college basketball has been how one-and-done freshmen have helped drive teams across the country. Mullens was asked if there is pressure on he and his classmates to help OSU get back to the NCAA Tournament after it was relegated to the NIT this past year.
“Making the NIT I think was a good thing for Ohio State,” Mullens said. “They were a young team and they got more games in and got a better feel for the game. They started coming together during the NIT. You look at guys like (Kansas State’s Michael) Beasley and (USC’s O.J.) Mayo. They are one-in-a-million players. Beasley, I think, can be the first pick. He’s just an amazing player.
“Our freshman class coming in, I think we have a very good chance of helping this team get back to the NCAA Tournament. If we do that, that should make us look good.”
Mullens saw only limited playing time in those two national all-star games, although he had 12 points as he and Buford helped their team win the Jordan Brand Game. He talked about what OSU fans can expect to see out of him beginning this fall with the Buckeyes.
“I hope they don’t judge me off those all-star games,” he said. “Those games are very much guard-oriented. I see me coming in like another Greg Oden. I don’t know if I will be another Greg Oden so don’t put me up against that expectation.
“But I am going to come in and try my hardest. I am going to know my role. That’s being a big man and being in the paint. That’s where I am going to stay. My job will be to get the trash points and getting the rebounds and getting it back up.”
Mullens is rated as the nation’s No. 8 prospect overall by ESPN.com, followed by Buford at No. 14, Offutt at No. 81 and Crater at No. 90.
Also, here are video highlights of Mullens in action:
Jordan Brand All-American Game: http://www.bucknuts.com/news/story.php?article=3648