NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Talking about Ohio State and its scandal-ridden football program has become part of the standard line of questioning whenever David Lighty and Jon Diebler work out for NBA teams these days.
The headquarters of the Nets was the latest stop for these two Buckeye basketball players Tuesday, and it was obvious the scandal has come up repeatedly after the seniors showcased their talents for next week’s draft.
Lighty appeared to laugh under his breath when the first Ohio State question was posed, and Diebler admitted he probably has heard at least one Ohio State joke at each of his eight NBA workouts.
What can you do? Ohio State, Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor are hot topics, and the players are simply dealing with it.
They’re just as certain, though, that Ohio State is a great school that will bounce back, and that Tressel and Pryor are good people who made mistakes.
Pryor was suspended for accepting improper benefits, such as cash and discounted tattoos, and he eventually left school. Before that, the scandal led to Tressel’s forced resignation. The coach acknowledged knowing his players were taking improper benefits, but covered it up for more than nine months before university officials discovered his knowledge.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” said Diebler, the Big Ten’s all-time leader in 3-pointers (374). “Coach Tressel is a great guy. Terrelle Pryor is a great guy. I think the general perception from the public is these people are not good people (for) what they did to the program and this and that.
“Did they make a mistake? Yes. But are they bad people? No.”
Living in the dorms, Lighty got to know Pryor and several other members of the football team.
However, he had no inkling anyone was receiving improper benefits or getting cut-rate tattoos. He said the situation caught him off guard, but he insisted that football players are not running amok breaking rules.
“Not at all, not at all,” Lighty said. “Things that people see are not what you always see or hear until you know what is really going on. When everything is said and done, people will get a better idea of what happened with the whole situation.”
Lighty said what surprised him was the unexpected resignation of Tressel, who had tried to get him to play football, something basketball coach Thad Matta would not allow.
Lighty always liked to talk to Tressel.
“He is a great guy. What happened is unfortunate,” he said. “I thought I would never see the day he would leave Ohio State University. I wish him nothing but the best, and I am sure he does the same for Ohio State.”
Diebler, who is getting married next week, has no doubt that Ohio State’s image has been tarnished.
“From the outside looking in, you might have a different perception of the whole university in general. But we know how the university is run,” he said. “We know the people in charge. Yes, a mistake was made by multiple people with the football program, but at the end of the day, everyone still wakes up the next day. Ohio State is going to be Ohio State, regardless, one of the best universities in the country, one of the largest. We’ll recover.”
Coming to New Jersey brought back bad memories for the players. Their college careers ended with a 62-60 loss to Kentucky in the regional semifinals in the Prudential Center in Newark.
“I am glad we didn’t practice there,” Lighty said. “It would have been a bittersweet feeling. Maybe I could have gotten some revenge and played a lot better or something like that in this workout. It’s a great place. Things didn’t go our way that game. They made the shots when they needed them. It was a great game for college basketball.”
Neither Lighty, who started 125 games as a Buckeye and averaged 12.1 points this past season, nor Diebler, who averaged 12.6 points, knows if they will be drafted at all next week. Lighty is hoping for a late call in the first round. On his end, Diebler, who was Lighty’s roommate on the road, isn’t so sure.
“I come in and try to play as hard as I can,” said Diebler, who says his goal is to show teams that he is more than simply a shooter. “It only takes one team to like you.”
But if Diebler goes to an NBA team, he won’t be sporting any tattoos anytime soon.
“I’m afraid of needles,” he said.
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)