One year ago, anyone who watched Ohio State in any capacity during the summer came away raving about one player: Keita Bates-Diop, who very much was positioned for a breakout season.


A stress fracture suffered late last summer derailed all of that and, ultimately, forced Bates-Diop to take a medical redshirt after appearing in only nine games and clearly not looking like himself.


Saturday night in the press box at Ohio Stadium, new men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann sounded a lot like his predecessor while taking questions during halftime of the football game against Oklahoma. Holtmann has lauded the leadership displayed by both Bates-Diop, a fourth-year junior, and senior Jae’Sean Tate, but when asked specifically about Bates-Diop he again praised what he’s seen so far.


“He has really made strides in his conditioning,” Holtmann said. “He obviously was off because of injury. I think he probably is our most versatile player because he can play as many as three or four different positions. Usually when you’re saying that you’re thinking offense; he can guard three or four positions. That’s very exciting to me. His approach has been outstanding; his buy-in to what we’re doing is outstanding. I’m really excited about him. The bottom line is, he and JT are going to have to have very good years for us to compete in the league we’re competing in.”


In those nine games last year, Bates-Diop averaged 9.7 points and 5.2 rebounds while also being felled by a high-ankle sprain. For his career, he has averaged 8.0 points and 4.3 rebounds after putting up career-high totals of 11.8 and 6.4, respectively, as a sophomore in 2015-16.


He’s not the only player working himself into shape. Holtmann said sophomore forward Andre Wesson has returned to action as well after sitting out the summer while dealing with an undisclosed medical issue.


In addition, the Buckeyes have welcomed in multiple new faces. Among them is freshman Musa Jallow, who reclassified to the class of 2017 after graduating early from Bloomington (Ind.) North. The same dedication to his schoolwork that allowed that to happen has already manifested itself on campus, evidently.


“Musa’s a very ambitious kid and a terrific student,” Holtmann said. “He wants to do everything really well. Musa texted me (the other day) and said, ‘Hey, can we talk?’ I said sure. We were two open gyms in, and I can’t watch open gym, but he said, ‘I just don’t quite understand yet what my role is going to be.’


“I said, ‘We’re two open gyms in. We’re in the first week. It’s going to happen. It’s going to come.’ As with all of our freshmen, everything is coming at them fast right now. I’m really excited about the three freshmen we have. I can’t explain to you how important it was to add a group like that as we begin this process. Obviously we had Kaleb (Wesson), but to add Musa and Kyle (Young), critical for us moving forward.”