Count Urban Meyer and Thad Matta among those welcoming LeBron James back to his home state.
The head coaches of the Ohio State football and men’s basketball teams, respectively, both told Cleveland.com they are excited to see what James’ return to Ohio will do for their programs.
"When I heard the news, I was like, ‘They’re going to shut down the whole state,’" Meyer told the site (h/t CFT). "I’m really happy for Northeast Ohio. Now we’ve got to go get a championship."
Although James skipped college to become the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, coming out of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, he has long maintained associations with Ohio State. Aside from attending some football games, he also has a personalized locker in the men’s basketball dressing room, and the Buckeye cagers wear his shoes and apparel.
Matta said he is amazed at what Ohio means to James.
"For me, it’s one of the greatest things for the state of Ohio, because you have the greatest basketball player in the world in our state," Matta said. "And that helps young kids and that helps middle school kids and that helps high school kids that now want to be great players. And all the people in Ohio that are going to get to watch him play more now, it’s a great thing for basketball here."
Hearing Meyer praise James is nothing new. The football coach gushed about him two years ago prior to the football coach’s first season in charge of the OSU program and offered an embarrassing story from the recruiting trail at SV-SM, where James was also an All-Ohio wide receiver.
Then the head coach at Bowling Green, Meyer offered James a scholarship during his sophomore year (2000-01) only to learn later why he was unlikely to become wear a Falcon helmet — or anyone else’s.
"He said, ‘Thank you very much. I’ll consider it,’" Meyer recalled. "And the coach started laughing. I didn’t know. I said, ‘What are you laughing at?’ So we went and sat in a room and he said, ‘Do you know who that is?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘LeBron James.’ ‘Who’s LeBron James?’ He said he’ll be the next Michael Jordan. I go, ‘Come on.’"
Meyer tweeted a welcome home to James, as did OSU women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff.