LeBron James fires up crowd, visits with Buckeyes football team and recruits


COLUMBUS — Ohio State hosted a gathering of stars Saturday night, including the biggest of them all.

More than 50 top football recruits — many with four or five stars affixed to their name — hobnobbed with NBA star LeBron James and took in a setting Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer hoped would be "out of control."

"We've got some good players coming in," Meyer said. "This is the showcase game."

Both the OSU football and basketball programs used a night in which a sold-out Ohio Stadium rattled, fireworks fountained out of the scoreboard, James gave a pregame speech, and the Buckeyes wore sleek alternate rivalry uniforms as their biggest recruiting weekend of the year.

"Any time you have a night game, it gives recruits a chance to get here," Meyer said. "Earlier games, it’s much more difficult to get people from outside of a two-hour drive to get here to watch games. We’re having a bunch of official visits. We're very proud of our stadium, our fans, and our atmosphere."

The roster of football recruits in attendance was expected to include a number of their 18 commits from the 2014 class and dozens they’re still trying to pull into the fold. The headliner of the undecideds was John Smith, a 6-foot-1, 207-pound safety from Long Beach, Calif., ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 2 recruit at his position and 26th overall.

OSU’s basketball recruits included their pair of five-star commits from a 2014 class ranked second nationally — Illinois forward Keita Bates-Diop and Kentucky shooting guard D'Angelo Russell.

Even before the game, the night was already a hit with prospects.

They watched as James led the Buckeyes on their walk from the Blackwell Inn to St. John Arena, then addressed a forgiving crowd at the Skull Session. Unlike the jeers that greeted the former Cleveland Cavalier’s last trip for an OSU-Duke basketball game in 2011, this time the fans roared.

"I promise, and I say this all the time, if I had one year of college, I would have ended up here," James told the packed arena.

"Just watched Lebron James give a pregame speech in the team room, so sick," one recruit, New Jersey tight end Mike Gesicki, wrote on Twitter. "This is the real deal."

As for the new threads — replete with chrome helmets — Meyer said he was fine putting a light twist on tradition if it meant content players and prospects.

"I like the result of the look," he said. "I'm not so much into the looks. I'm into good players and recruiting."

EXTRA POINTS: The defensive line received key reinforcements with the return of end Adolphus Washington (groin) and Michael Bennett (stinger). Though freshman Joey Bosa started his third straight game, Washington returned early and played significant time in the first half. ... The Buckeyes were vying for a 17th straight victory that would match the fourth-longest winning streak in school history. OSU won 22 straight games from 1967-69, 19 straight from 2002-03 and 2005-06, and 17 straight from 1915-17. ... Wisconsin’s four game captains all hailed from Ohio: Kettering linebacker Chris Borland, Cincinnati receiver Jeff Duckworth, Mason defensive end Pat Muldoon, and Loveland tight end Brian Wozniak. OSU’s captains were senior left tackle and St. John’s Jesuit graduate Jack Mewhort, safeties C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant, and backup quarterback Kenny Guiton.

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.