Recruits won#039;t leave Ohio State

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 11, 2004

CHESAPEAKE - Jim O'Brien is gone, but his impact lives on.

The seven-year Ohio State coach was fired Tuesday after he admitted he gave $6,000 to a recruit. But his influence was still evident as his prized recruiting class remained committed to the Buckeyes.

Two of those recruits, Matt Terwilliger and Jamar Butler, said the firing came as a complete shock, but they still plan to attend Ohio State right after they play in this weekend's Ohio-West Virginia All-Star Games.

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Terwilliger, a 6-foot-9 forward, averaged 18 points for Troy High School and was second team All-Ohio. He began talking with O'Brien at the end of his eighth grade year and the two became close.

But Terwilliger said his decision wasn't based strictly on his relationship with O'Brien.

"I took a real long time to decide," Terwilliger said. "People were speculating when I was a sophomore where I would go. I thought I knew then, but I'm glad I waited.

"It wasn't one thing that I looked at when I chose Ohio State. It wasn't just the coach or the school or a class. It was more than one thing, so if something happened to one of them, I had the other things to fall back on."

Butler, named the Associated Press Mr. Basketball for Ohio, is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Lima Shawnee. He turned down offers from Cincinnati, Louisville and Xavier to sign with the Buckeyes. He said he had no second thoughts.

"I (verbally) committed to Cincinnati my sophomore year. Halfway through my senior year I started talking to coach O'Brien and I changed my mind," Butler said.

"Coach O'Brien was like a second father and it was a chance to play in the Big Ten, which is a great league."

Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger said assistant coach Rick Boyages would be in charge of the program until a new coach is found.

Speculation is running rampant regarding O'Brien's successor. Former NBA coach George Karl has already interviewed for the position, but Geiger has remained silent about his list of possible candidates.

The two recruits aren't concerned about whom Ohio State hires as the new head coach.

"It doesn't really matter who we get, we just have to adjust to the way he plays," Butler said. "I can change my game to up tempo if we play up tempo, and

I can play slowdown if we play slowdown."

Terwilliger said he already has plans to move into his campus housing on Sunday.

"I'll go to school on Sunday and move my things in and get ready for the season and whoever the coach is," Terwilliger said.

For now, Terwilliger and Butler just want to focus on the All-Star Games.

"I want to play and get everyone involved. I want to win this game for bragging rights. We want to say we're better," Butler said.

"People have been calling the house the last few days. I just had to get out and get back in the rhythm of things, no matter who the coach is. I've got to move on," Terwilliger said.

Besides Butler and Terwilliger, Je'Kel Foster of Chipola College in Florida and Jermyl Jackson-Wilson of Milwaukee are members of the recruiting class.

The Ohio All-Stars host West Virginia at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Chesapeake High School, then shift to St. Albans, W.Va., on Saturday. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m.

A girls' all-star game will be played at 6 p.m. Saturday at St. Albans.