For about an hour and a half, Ohio State opened the doors to Value City Arena tonight as part of the annual Agonis Club fundraiser. Fans who purchased tickets got a look at practice for about an hour, followed by a question-and-answer session with first-year coach Chris Holtmann in addition to dinner, autographs and more.
The night offered further insight into Holtmann and what the team might look like this season.
While the players were on the court, every one of them took part in at least some capacity. That’s an improvement on how the first parts of the preseason have gone after three players have had to miss time to injury. Freshman Kyle Young missed about two weeks after having his tonsils removed at the start of camp, redshirt junior Keita Bates-Diop missed a few days recently after knocking knees with another player and suffering a bruise and freshman Kaleb Wesson rolled an ankle sometime last week.
Young was fully active today, as was Wesson – and his older brother, Andre, still recovering from having missed the entire summer with an undisclosed medical condition. Bates-Diop was active and took part in some but not all of the drills while spectators were present.
Monday marked practice No. 18, Holtmann said, and it came one day after an intrasquad scrimmage. Although these are the “dog days” of camp, as Holtmann later put it, here are a few observations:
* You should expect to make three-pointers against no defense, but I’m not sure I saw Andre Wesson or Andrew Dakich miss while going through drills.
* Micah Potter looks quick, and Kaleb Wesson looks to be in pretty decent shape. Wesson’s older brother is still regaining fitness.
* Fifth-year senior Kam Williams isn’t known for being super vocal, but I heard him plenty in drills today. Same, too, for Dakich.
* Bates-Diops has missed “seven or eight days,” Holtmann said. “He’s fully healthy now.”
* There was a lot of work on illegal screening, because the Buckeyes “had too many in yesterday’s scrimmage,” Holtmann said.
* The Buckeyes did a lot of situational clock work: side-out-of-bounds with eight seconds left, full-court press break with 12 seconds left, etc.
* When the final drill concluded with walk-on Danny Hummer drilling a three-pointer at the buzzer, everyone surrounded him and celebrated.
* I haven’t noticed this before: the Buckeyes have individual white towels with their number embroidered on them in scarlet.
* When practice was complete, everyone circled up at half court before extending their hands to the center and yelling out, “Family on three!”
* Each player introduced himself to the crowd by listing his name, major, hometown and class. When it got to Dakich, who spent the last four years at Michigan, he omitted the Wolverines and claimed his hometown of Zionsville, Indiana – to the chagrin of his teammates, who groaned.
* Along those lines, Scoonie Penn, the team’s director of player development, introduced himself as a Columbus native.
Other news and notes from Holtmann’s question-and-answer period:
The children speak
His first three questions came from children, and he seemed to enjoy the ones asked by kids in particular. The first question came from a girl who asked, “Is it November 10th (the day of the season opener against Robert Morris) yet?” The second came from a boy who asked if the Buckeyes would play more man-to-man or zone defense this season.
“Oh, wow! We’ve got a future coach in the house. Good question, young man,” Holtmann said with a smile before asking the boy for his name (David). “We’ll be primarily a man-to-man team, but we will play some zone for sure as a secondary defense. We have some depth concerns on the perimeter, so that might lead to us playing more zone.”
Then another child followed by asking, “How much are we going to beat that team up North by?”
“You know, we’re going to beat them as bad as we can possibly beat them,” Holtmann said. “We’re going to try to beat them as bad as we can possibly beat them. That’s certainly going to be our goal. We’ve got a few games between now and then. That’s a real Buckeye right there, asking that question.”
Ohio State’s struggles from the free-throw line have particularly rankled fans in recent years. Holtmann was asked about that twice and said he figured at least one on the topic was coming.
“We intend to work on it,” he said. “One of our best players is Jae’Sean Tate. He’s struggled from the line. What we’ve got to do is try to get him to have his best year from the free-throw line, because he’s going to get there. Kam Williams, I’d love for him to get to the line as much as JT does. We’ve got to get those guys who are high-volume free-throw shooters to improve. It’s just going to take some practice and belief from us. I don’t believe there’s anything structurally wrong with Jae’Sean’s shooting. In some cases it was maybe a case of concentration and focus as much as anything.”
Holtmann said the coaches chart every free throw taken in practice.
“They’ll shoot 25-50, five at a time,” he said. “I have, in my office, a sheet with all their percentages right now. I’ve found the best growth for your free-throw percentage is for the team to know that you trust and believe them that they’re going to make (them). I don’t want to get into their head too much on that.”
Less than a week after showing off his artistic skills while at Big Ten media day at Madison Square Garden in New York, Tate presented a drawing he made to a young fan in the crowd named Riley.
A huge thanks to @o_tate_ for his original artwork for Riley!!! @OhioStateHoops #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/Fxa8Rq9eGY
— Mike Knapp (@OhioSt1960) October 23, 2017
“He’s pretty talented, and come to find out it’s a hobby for him,” Holtmann said of Tate, who as seen above posed for a photo with the girl, who was wearing a No. 1 jersey. “If he plays as well as he draws all year, he’s going to have one heck of a year.”
Toward the end of the event, one elderly man welcomed Holtmann to Ohio State, asked him what his ultimate goal is at Ohio State and then told him there is only one right answer.
“That’s why I came here,” Holtmann said as the crowd applauded. “I certainly believe it can be done here. It was done here, right? I know, it’s been a while, but we’ve also been pretty close at times in the last 20, 30, 40 years. It’s going to take some time. We recognize that. If you’re going to have prolonged success at a program that is stable it’s going to take a little time, but we’re digging in and that is certainly my ultimate goal, for sure.”