If Micah Potter’s summertime smile when looking ahead to the season could light up a room, by Wednesday afternoon it could power a city.
In spite of what has transpired around the program in recent months, the Ohio State big man has put forth a positive image while looking forward. And at the Buckeyes’ media day Wednesday at Value City Arena, it was all Potter could do to contain himself.
“I think everyone’s ready to just pick up the ball and practice and play,” he said with a wide smile. “With all the NCAA rules and time restrictions, it’s been tough to do that. With open gym, we play a lot, but it’s a lot different between practice and open gym.
“Being able to officially start practice on Saturday and go full-go from there and get ready to start the season, we’re all super excited.”
That last word isn’t one that has been commonly associated with the Buckeyes recently.
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Diminishing win totals, consecutive missed NCAA Tournaments, the disappearance of an entire five-man recruiting class and the ouster of the winningest coach in program history have made the accomplishments plastered on the gym walls seem like dim memories from a forgotten time.
Now preparing for Chris Holtmann’s first season, the usual preseason optimism was running rampant among a team widely projected to finish in the bottom fourth of the Big Ten. But after everything this group has gone through, there’s an extra level of excitement with simply getting back on the court and playing basketball.
“I know for a lot of the older guys, our legacy has been somewhat negative,” fourth-year junior forward Keita Bates-Diop said. “We haven’t had the best Ohio State seasons, especially ending coach (Thad) Matta’s career and not his best seasons. We want to go out and leave a better legacy and try to leave on a high note.”
A full roster of 14 players, half of whom weren’t there last season, posed for a team photo without Holtmann — who was spotted in Florida recruiting five-star guard Andrew Nembhard. The coach will address the media Thursday, but the seven returnees plus graduate transfer Andrew Dakich were available.
Bates-Diop said he’s 100 percent healthy after taking a medical redshirt last season. Sophomore Andre Wesson expressed his excitement at being cleared to participate after missing the summer because of an undisclosed medical situation.
Senior Jae’Sean Tate sold the merits of the first injury-free summer in his Ohio State career. Junior Joey Lane, in his jersey, walked around pretending to be a reporter and asked his teammates questions.
For now, at least, the worries that have dogged the program seemed miles away.
“I think we can prove that we can win, and that’s the most important thing to us right now,” junior C.J. Jackson said. “Especially us older guys: We just want to win more than anything.”