It was the type of play that Ohio State missed during its lackluster 2013-14 campaign. It was the type of play the the Buckeyes signee is expected to provide when he begins his college career this fall.
A five-star prospect and the nation's 16th-ranked player, Russell is a do-it-all guard in the truest sense of the phrase. Speaking of the Montverde (Fla.) Academy product after Russell had sent in his national letter of intent in November, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta raved of his ability to take over a game in multiple ways.
"The first time I ever saw him play, he had six 3s in the first half," Matta recalled. "The second half, he didn't take one, and probably had 10 assists. He's got something about him. He takes and makes big shots. He wants the ball in his hands at crucial points in the game. He is very very complete."
The 6-5, 180-pounder's ability was apparent in the McDonald's All-American Game, where Russell scored 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting and dished out four assists in just 15 minutes of action. Russell played sparingly in the second half as he prepared to fly to New York City to rejoin Montverde in the Dick's Sporting Goods National High School Tournament. "I got a national championship I gotta win too, so I gotta pace myself," Russell said.
That team-first mentality one of the things that drew Matta to Russell, who will also take part in the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn on April 18. In a program that preaches such values, the Louisville, Ky. native will fit right in at Ohio State, where Matta has a history of recruiting proven winners.
"You're getting another great guard at Ohio State," the 10-year Buckeyes coach said of Russell. "He's got ability to make big time plays with the basketball in his hands, be it three-point shots, driving, getting fouled, he makes guys around him better. He's a guy that's won a national championship as a high school player. Montverde is one of the top high school programs in the country."
Given his size and ability, Russell possesses the ability to play either backcourt position at the college level. That's good news for an OSU squad that will replace its top three scorers and two starting guards from a season ago, and it's clear that Matta has big plans for Russell as soon as he arrives on campus.
"Coach Matta told me that the ball will be in my hands," Russell said. "Whatever that means, I'm just going to take advantage of it. I feel like I can do whatever it takes. If coach needs me to score, I can do that. Guard the best player, I feel like I can do that. Facilitate, I can do that. So I feel like I can do whatever it takes."
It's possible that Russell will help make up for the intangibles that the Buckeyes lost with the departures of Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr., while also providing more scoring than his predecessors produced. Presumably paired with senior-to-be Shannon Scott, Russell could help create one of the more fast paced and exciting backcourt combos in recent Ohio State history.
That's not to say, however, that Russell doesn't have work to do before he begins his college career. If competing at the McDonald's All-American Game taught him anything, it's that his body must be ready for the nightly grind that is Big Ten basketball.
"Definitely getting my weight up," Russell responded when asked what he hopes to improve before coming to Columbus. "Just playing against the top guys in America, the strength factor is a big key. I know that's something I gotta get up."
Fans hoping to get an early look at Russell can watch him tonight, when him and Montverde take on Sagemont (Fla.) in the national quarterfinals (6 p.m. ESPNU). After the Jordan Brand Classic, your next chance to check Russell out will be when he's wearing scarlet and gray in the fall -- an opportunity that he is evidently excited for.
"It's just something I wanted to be a part of," Russell said of his decision to sign with Ohio State. "It's a movement."