Media day has come and gone for Ohio State, and all that remains is hours of tedious transcribing hours of interviews.
This year, owing to coach Chris Holtmann having a conflict with a recruiting visit, the players were scheduled for Wednesday and Holtmann for Thursday. Both groups were given a one-hour timeslot and used nearly all of it. Then, to supplement Holtmann’s appearance, assistant coaches Terry Johnson and Ryan Pedon both took questions for about 15 minutes as well.
The insights, anecdotes and observations will fill notebooks and stories for the coming weeks as Holtmann’s first preseason gets underway. Until then, here are six things we learned during the two-day mediapalooza.
1. Everyone wishes they could have spent more time together this summer.
In my conversations with players Wednesday, three of them independently told me they were looking forward to practice because the NCAA limit of two hours of instruction per week during the summer was too restrictive for their tastes.
I figured that was just lip service and that surely players enjoy their freedom during the summer months. I was basically shouted down.
“I think everybody in the nation would be excited (for more time with coaches),” senior Jae’Sean Tate said. “You can always get in the gym, but it’s different when somebody is teaching you, when somebody is critiquing you. We unfortunately can’t do that.”
The time was further restricted, Johnson said, by the amount of recruiting the coaching staff had to do.
“Personally for me, (we didn’t spend as much time with our new players) as I’d have liked to,” he said. “It’s about to get started here. We tell them all the time, guys we wish we could be around more but they also understand we’ve got to get out and recruit as well.”
2. The Buckeyes have spent as much time at Holtmann’s house as they can stand.
For three straight weekends, Ohio State has welcomed in at least one recruit on an official visit. That’s meant showing potential future players all that the program and coaching staff have to offer, and that apparently also means dinner at the Holtmann house.
“I told them last week, ‘Fellas, I promise, this is the last weekend I’m going to ask you to come to my house. You’re a college kid,’ ” Holtmann said. “College kids don’t want to come to the head coach’s house every weekend. I get that. You’ve got other things on your mind. But that’s been a really good time for them to spend together and for them to be around our staff’s wives and our staff’s kids, and there’s a lot of them.”
Johnson said he’s enjoyed the chance to get to know the guys better. But after 12 years at Butler, he said his kids might have a favorite player or two – but they are Bulldogs, not Buckeyes.
“We want the guys around us as much as possible because we want them to get to know us on and off the floor,” he said. “We’re pretty much the same (in either situation). I’m yelling at home, all the time, with three boys. They have a lot of energy and I do not know where they get it from. Our guys know when we step on the court. We’re going to be true to them, and that earns trust too. My boys, I don’t know who their favorite is just yet. My one problem I might have this year is when we go to Portland, and if we play Butler or we see them, my boy’s probably going to run to one of those players because that’s what they know, that’s what they’ve been around. Hopefully they find one before we get there.”
3. Everyone is cleared and ready for the start of the season.
Pretty straightforward, but I made sure to ask Holtmann about that. That includes Andre Wesson, who is rebuilding his fitness after missing the entire summer with an undisclosed medical issue, and Keita Bates-Diop, who took a medical redshirt last season.
“I probably started testing end of May and got back in the beginning of September,” Wesson said. “Once I got medically cleared I was full-go. (Once I was back), it was more not wanting to get hurt, pull something or anything. They just slowly brought me back. It was hard, but just being around everything, that really helped. Just watching everybody work and being around them, that really helped. Coach Q (strength and conditioning coach Quadrian Banks) has done a great job of bringing me back slowly and getting me back into things.”
4. The starting lineup is to be determined.
With a new staff and another offseason of roster turnover, it’s not a major shock that Holtmann doesn’t have a starting lineup already set in his mind. Few coaches probably do at this point in the season.
But having said that, there’s a few guys who seem set to be starters even as the evaluations get underway with the start of practice.
“I think I have a couple guys that have proven that, but I’ll leave it, it’s pretty open-ended right now,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition that has to be done before I’m ready to consider a starting group. Given our numbers, I have an idea of a group of guys but if you asked me right now a starting group, no chance I could give it to you right now.
“This is going to be a fact-finding next couple of weeks for our coaching staff, different than any time I’ve ever been a head coach because we’re going to be putting guys in practice to get a feel for what they can do in those settings to hopefully prepare them for the games because we haven’t coached them as a group.”
5. Kaleb Wesson’s conditioning is drawing rave reviews.
Typically only the freshmen are the unknowns this time of year for a basketball team. That’s obviously not the case with Ohio State this season, so there were fewer questions about the individual newcomers than there have been in years past.
Newcomers aren’t allowed to talk with reporters until after their first game, so the younger Wesson wasn’t able to discuss himself or his work ethic. He’s listed at 6-9, 270 pounds and has been singled out by a few people for his dedication to taking care of his body.
“It begins with his body transformation, for sure,” Holtmann said. “That was a major, major component in his development. He’s very gifted and he’s very skilled, but one of the things people said to me before I even got here was they questioned his motor. I think that came in part because of his fitness. He’s taken incredible ownership and to be applauded for improving in that area.”
Added Micah Potter, “He’s a massive human being, and he’s got great touch around the rim. A lot of times what happens with guys like that is they get lazy, and Kaleb’s not lazy. He’s a workhorse. You can tell by how much weight he’s lost. He’s gotten in better shape. He can run. He’s got some of the best touch around the rim that I’ve ever seen.”
6. The Buckeyes are reaching out to their alumni in the NBA.
Holtmann didn’t give a ton of details, but Scoonie Penn’s new title of director of player development will also entail going out and seeing all of the former Ohio State players in the NBA. That includes D’Angelo Russell, whom Holtmann said he’s not yet spoken with but will at some point.
More details on this to follow.