Buckeyes could benefit from James' return

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer came up a bit short in his recruiting bid for the services of LeBron James more than a decade ago. But they've wound up essentially on the same team anyway, as the Ohio State coach will almost certainly be calling on basketball's biggest star and one of the Buckeyes' most vocal fans as yet another tool to help sway future recruiting targets.

James won't be sitting in any offices on campus calling the best players in the country. He's got his own career to worry about on the hardwood, so he also won't be swinging down from Cleveland to Columbus every weekend to shake hands on the sideline at the Horseshoe. In some ways, James' high-profile fandom, his locker in the renovated basketball complex and his friendship with Meyer already allowed the Buckeyes to use him as a potential selling point for recruits looking at the program, no matter where he was playing professionally.

But his choice to leave South Beach for Northeast Ohio strengthens the relationship between Ohio State and the college he likely would have attended, despite the offer from a young wide receivers coach at Notre Dame when James was a high school sophomore and already on the fast track to greatness in a different sport. Meyer jokes often about coming up short in his pitch to James, and just as frequently he cites him as the perfect model for what he's looking for in a player when it comes to competitive drive, athleticism and work ethic.

Meyer carved out some time for James during a high-profile recruiting weekend last year when the Buckeyes hosted Wisconsin for a prime-time game, and there's little doubt that his presence helped make the game seem just a little bit bigger. Coaches and current players raved about his message when James spoke to the team. And while it's difficult to gauge how much of an impact having James around really made, it seems a safe bet that impressionable high school athletes took notice that James was there, decked out in Ohio State gear.

"I just know I love athletes that handle their business," Meyer said then. "I love athletes that live right off the field and show incredible leadership. And I've always been a LeBron fan.

"Plus he's a Buckeye. He loves Ohio State, and he's made that clear several times to me throughout the year."

James will have no shortage of opportunities to keep expressing those feelings moving forward. And while Ohio State might not benefit as much or as directly as the Cavaliers, Meyer undoubtedly picked up a valuable new sales pitch as two native sons of Ohio try to bring championships back to the state after finding success down in Florida.