On the heels of being nationally ranked for the first time in three seasons, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann held his weekly call-in show Monday night. In case you missed it, here are the highlights.
*Holtmann was asked about the Buckeyes appearing at No. 22 in the Associated Press poll.
"It’s a credit to our players," he said. "Fortunate that I’ve been able to coach some teams that have been nationally ranked. I don’t put much stock in it. It’s so fluid, particularly this time of year. You hope that come late February, early March, you’re putting yourself in position to play meaningful games and have opportunity for postseason.
"It’s nice for the program, but we’ve got such a long ways to go. There’s been plenty of teams ranked at this point that haven’t finished well."
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Holtmann said the staff didn’t talk today with the players about being ranked.
"I want our guys to enjoy this process of being together every day and trying to get better every day almost to the exclusion of everything else," he said. "We’re playing important, meaningful games."
*After the Rutgers win Sunday, Holtmann said he showed the Buckeyes clips from the last time the two teams met. That, of course, was when Rutgers knocked Ohio State out of the first round of last year’s Big Ten tournament in an ugly game that ended Thad Matta’s coaching career after 13 seasons with the program.
"It’s always an interesting dynamic, especially when you’re a new coach with the team," Holtmann said. "You don’t want to beat them down with past struggles. We’ve got a competitive group that’s, I think, hungry in a lot of ways to rebound from a difficult year. It’s a credit to coach Matta, the older guys he’s recruited that have that edge about them and want to respond the right way. We did remind them."
Holtmann said Ohio State video coordinator Kyle Davis put together a video edit of Scarlet Knights players beating the Buckeyes to loose balls and asked if the coaches wanted to show it to the players, so they did.
*Regarding Keita Bates-Diop, Holtmann said he’s shown growth in learning when to press the issue on offense and when to let the game come to him.
"Early in the year he was antsy to show what he was capable of," he said. "I think he’s now in a good rhythm and a good stretch, but there’s probably going to be nights where he’s going to get so much attention that he’s going to need to be a facilitator. He’s willing to do that. He’s a terrific team guy."
*Holtmann took a submitted question about what Ohio State envisioned when it added Andrew Dakich to the roster.
"We envisioned an older guy with experience that could help in the backcourt," he said. "We didn’t really know what to expect because we didn’t see him in a whole lot of game action. We thought he would be a good teammate and understand what his role was going to be. He’s had maybe a greater impact than I thought.
"He connects our team out on the floor in a lot of ways. Guys like being around him. They like him being a teammate because they know he’s got one agenda, and that’s the Buckeyes winning."
Holtmann added that Dakich’s ball handling has improved as the season went on and that he understands who the best player is on the floor and that it’s not him.
*The Buckeyes did a little bit more in their pre-Rutgers shoot around because Holtmann said he felt the players needed to move around a little bit more.
*On the injury report, Holtmann said walk-on Connor Fulton suffered a concussion and probably won’t travel to Northwestern on Wednesday.
*Holtmann said freshman center Kaleb Wesson still needs to improve on his passing out of the post and said his efficiency has dipped recently but cited him as a "very willing passer." In the post, Holtmann said the Buckeyes want to simplify things for Wesson a bit more because "at his size, we need him to be an ultra-efficient player."
This offseason will be important for Wesson from a conditioning standpoint because Holtmann said "he’s got a major step he can take. He can get lighter and needs to get lighter. For him to be his best moving forward, he’s going to need to continue to get in better shape and be a more-conditioned athlete. That will come. I give him a ton of credit for what he’s done in the last year and a half."
*In discussing Bates-Diop’s length, Holtmann brought up incoming freshman Luther Muhammed.
"He’s got great positional length for his positions," he said.
*A caller asked about losing so much talent from this year’s team including projecting the loss of Bates-Diop.
"I don’t sleep well this time of year," Holtmann told the caller. "You’re making me sleep even less. Keita, it’s kind of wait-and-see, but it’s a very real possibility and as a coach you want guys to make the most informed decision. I think he’s solely focused right now on helping his team perform well.
"We have looked at some things and put some of those scenarios in our head. Regardless of Keita’s decision, we’re going to lose a significant amount from this team. That’s going to open up opportunities for our current players and incoming recruits. We could potentially add another recruit or two."
The hope is to add an older, experienced player, perhaps a graduate transfer, Holtmann said. The position is to be determined, and he didn’t rule out a transfer who would have to sit out a year before playing. Ohio State won’t sign more than five freshmen, he said.
*In addition to D’Angelo Russell’s appearance at the Rutgers game, Holtmann said Clark Kellogg has come to a practice this year. Radio analyst and former Ohio State captain Ron Stokes pointed out that Dennis Hopson came to a game this year and that Lawrence Funderburk and Michael Redd have also been around. Holtmann said Evan Turner keeps in touch, as do the Sullingers (J.J. and Jared) and Jim Jackson.
*Holtmann said his college coach gave him advice on taking over a new team, whether it’s a rebuilding season or not.
"Make sure you have a team you can lose with first," he said. "That’s always resonated with me. Basically what he was saying was you want to begin with guys you enjoy coming in and working with in the gym each day. We have that with this group. That was our goal from day one as a coaching staff."
*In a conversation about Kyle Young making an impact in limited minutes against Rutgers, Holtmann pointed out that Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ redshirted.
"He’s got to keep growing as a player, but he’s playing behind a pretty good player right now in Keita, who’s maybe the best player in the league," Holtmann said. "He’d have my vote. That is a situation where guys have to keep getting better and stay ready, and he did that and came in and played well. His best days are ahead of him."