NEW YORK — The thin roster Chris Holtmann inherited at Ohio State inhibited his ability to get an affinity for his new team during summer workouts.
When the coaches were actually able to be around and not out desperately recruiting to change the trajectory of the program, the Buckeyes didn’t have enough bodies for full team scrimmages.
That changed by the time official practices began at the end of September. Through the additions of a graduate transfer, a reclassifying freshman and a trio of walk-ons, Holtmann grew his first roster to 14.
That number remains unchanged, but the first few weeks of the preseason has been frustratingly similar to those lean summer months.
In addition to sophomore forward Andre Wesson continuing to work his way back after missing the summer due to an undisclosed medical condition, Holtmann said three key players have missed time recently due to injuries.
Freshman Kyle Young returned to practice Wednesday after missing about two weeks after undergoing a tonsillectomy, but Ohio State was still missing redshirt junior Keita Bates-Diop and freshman Kaleb Wesson due to minor injuries.
Bates-Diop banged knees with another player and suffered what testing has shown to be just a bruise; Wesson sprained an ankle.
Both will be back before long, but it’s a blow to preseason progress.
“You’re definitely holding your breath,” Holtmann said of initially seeing Bates-Diop go down with an injury. “Given how thin we are, any of your rotation guys go down (and) you’re holding your breath because it could impact your season in such a significant way. It’s good to have him back here soon. We don’t want to rush it this time of year. It does change maybe a little bit how we want to practice.”
In that regard, the Buckeyes are continuing to try to turn a page after undergoing the summer coaching transition. Fifth-year senior Kam Williams said he has spent much of the preseason figuring out where he can get his shots in Holtmann’s new system and how he can adapt his game to what the coach wants, a frustrating process early on that is getting better with each practice.
Senior Jae’Sean Tate appears to be solidifying himself as the team’s No. 2 point guard behind C.J. Jackson, with graduate transfer Andrew Dakich next on the depth chart.
Tate said his responsibilities there are more about getting the offense started than necessarily directing it.
“It’s new everything, so for the short time we have I don’t think we could move any quicker,” he said. “You’re learning the roles of everybody and what type of coach (Chris) Holtmann is.”
There’s only so much learning that can take place right now, though, and Holtmann said true tests for his team won’t arrive for a few more weeks.
“We’ve got some really good upperclassmen, some really good people,” he said. “I think that helps so much when you have a transition. Their buy-in has been really good. It’s a credit to them. We haven’t experienced any adversity yet. We’ll see how we handle adversity.”