A member of the Oden-Conley-Cook recruiting class that put Ohio State in the National Championship hunt in 2007, David Lighty
has been a key reserve for the Buckeyes since his freshman year. Doing whatever Thad Matta asked of him through his first four seasons in Columbus, Lighty has done a little bit of everything in support of the likes of Greg Oden
, Kosta Koufos
, and Evan Turner
. After missing the majority of his true junior year because of a season-ending foot injury, Lighty is back at Ohio State for a fifth year and has made a big impact for one of the nation's best teams early on.
Much of Lighty's success this season has stemmed from his comfort level with the speed of the college game. His torn ACL as a prep limited his explosiveness early in his college career, and while he seemed to get a little more bouncy each season, he has appeared noticeably quicker with the ball in his hands this year. Possessing solid speed, quickness, and strength, Lighty still looks a bit tentative jumping off of one leg, but has no trouble playing above the rim when he has time to gather himself and jump off of two. Despite re-fracturing the same foot that robbed him of his junior season early this off-season, the Cleveland native looks as close to 100% as we've seen him.
Lighty's health and quickness have been essential pieces to the puzzle for a young Ohio State team trying to replace a do-everything star in Evan Turner
. An extremely versatile player in his own right, Lighty has taken on a bigger role on the offensive end, spending some pushing the ball up the floor at the point guard position and usually winding up with the ball in his hands when the shot-clock runs low. Often the best athlete on the floor for OSU, Lighty is asked to create for his team in crunch time, something he doesn't look to do normally and won't be asked to do on the NBA level.
Ohio State's nationally televised victory over Florida State provided an especially interesting snapshot of Lighty's role this season. FSU's defensive pressure forced the Buckeyes into numerous short shot-clock situations, most of which led to the ball winding up in David Lighty
's hands. Finishing just 4-14 from the field, Lighty forced some tough shots from the perimeter and had the coast-to-coast plays he normally finishes erased by Chris Singleton
Though he scored just 10 points, Lighty finished with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and a pair of blocks in helping his team to victory. A consummate roleplayer even when he's leading the Buckeyes in scoring, Lighty proves to be a very savvy passer, makes good decisions with the ball, crashes the glass well for his size, and works tirelessly on the defensive end. Though those traits have defined his game in the past he has made some clear offensive improvements this season, even if they didn't help him against FSU.
A somewhat questionable perimeter shooter in the past, Lighty has looked more comfortable in catch-and-shoot situations this season. Getting better arc on the ball than he did early in his career, his shot still looks a bit mechanical, but the ball comes off his hand better. Never one to take a shot with a hand in his face unless he has to, Lighty's ability to knock down shots consistently from beyond the arc, improve his pull-up game, and cut back on his turnovers in traffic will be three areas of interest as we move through this season.
Around the rim, Lighty has found some success as a finisher, even if athletic shot blockers present a problem for him on occasion. Showing a quick first step and the ability to hang in the air for a short-range jumper or lay-in, Lighty is a solid finisher who is at his best when he can take what the defense gives him instead of being relied on to make plays under pressure.
Defensively, Lighty is an active, and fundamentally sound stopper. Capable of denying penetration out on the perimeter, contesting shots with his wingspan, and making an impact with his anticipation in passing lanes, Lighty is a very good defensive player at the NCAA level. Though he could stand to get a bit stronger, Lighty knows when to give a cushion and when to close out, is willing to mix it up on the glass, and plays within team concepts. Lighty may not have the lateral quickness to be considered a defensive specialist at the next level, but his willingness to work hard on both ends only adds to his versatility.
Flying under the radar next to Ohio State's parade of recent draftees, the name of the game for Lighty this season will be consistency. He's not going to be asked to fill the do-everything role he's currently playing in the NBA, but if he can continue to score at an efficient rate and do all the little things, he could rise up draft boards. As it stands, he has entrenched himself as a potential second round pick, and is a player to watch as OSU moves into conference play.