When it was time for the first substitution of the year, Chris Holtmann didn’t stop at just one player. Sunday afternoon against the College of Wooster at Value City Arena, the new Ohio State basketball coach kept his starting lineup intact until 14:15 remained in the first half.
Then he subbed all of them out, bringing in sophomore Andre Wesson along with graduate transfer Andrew Dakich and all three freshmen. For the trio of Musa Jallow, Kaleb Wesson and Kyle Young, the opportunity to get their feet wet together was fitting.
“It’s a blessing,” Kaleb Wesson said. “You don’t always get to have such a connection. We’re all roommates, and we all checked in at the same time, so it’s like hooping with your friends like you’re back home.”
Wesson, of course, isn’t far from home. The product of Westerville South finished with 16 points and seven rebounds against spirited but overmatched competition, but he also fouled out in only 15 minutes of playing time. Jallow fouled out, too, with six points in 21 minutes.
Young had six points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.
“They’re all three going to play significant roles by freshman standards for us,” Holtmann said after the game. “And all three did really good things.”
Jallow showcased his athleticism, although when his group allowed an 8-2 Wooster run, he was the first player removed.
Young battled hard on the glass and showed off some power on a few fast-break dunks.
Each of the freshmen has overcome something to get to this point. Wesson missed time during the preseason with an ankle injury, and Young missed nearly two weeks after having his tonsils removed, but the 17-year-old Jallow would be preparing for his senior year of high school had he not graduated early to join the Buckeyes.
“The first couple practices, it was tough,” Jallow said. “Everybody’s blowing past you, and you’re so tired and everybody seems cool, but after a while, you get used to it.”
Young said his surgery was unexpected because he was experiencing a sore throat “like I usually do” until it started getting worse, and it set him back.
“It was just as I was kind of getting used to everything, getting used to practices and stuff, and then I had to sit those two weeks out,” Young said. “It was kind of tough, but I’m getting back into it now and pretty much back to 100 percent.”
As Holtmann pointed out, all three will have to play roles for the Buckeyes this season as he attempts to stabilize the roster and the program. Having gotten the butterflies out of the way Sunday, as both Wesson and Young put it, will help. So will putting in maximum effort.
Holtmann “really emphasizes playing hard and making hustle plays,” Young said. “As long as we’re playing hard, he’s going to be proud of us. Really just the hustle side of it, and everything else should fall into place.”