With all that is going on this week, coach Chris Holtmann needed a bit of relief. It was Wednesday afternoon, and Ohio State had just announced the signing of a four-man recruiting class that had been assembled in barely five months.
Up next? Preparing a team he’s still getting to know not only to open the season but to play two games in three days, starting Friday against Robert Morris at Value City Arena.
“It’s been quite a couple of days and quite a week,” Holtmann said. “I just popped about four migraine Advil, so it’s that time of year, people. Signing week and two games here in three days. The stress level is high and we’re excited to get started.”
It’s time to see what the Buckeyes have in Holtmann’s first season. With an eye on stabilizing the program, rebuilding its culture and making Value City Arena a place opponents don’t want to visit, the start of the season gives Ohio State the chance to start making tangible progress toward those goals.
Senior Jae’Sean Tate has told reporters that, when you watch this year’s team, you will see five players ready to dive three rows into the stands for a loose ball at any given second. All three freshmen have agreed that the quickest way into Holtmann’s good graces is to play hard and play defense.
On the eve of Holtmann’s official debut, though, sophomore center Micah Potter expressed a desire to prove that the Buckeyes aren’t as far behind as outside perception makes them appear.
“A lot of people say that we’re not Ohio State, (that) we’re very weak, especially with the new coaching staff and a lot of new players,” he said. “It’s tough to come back and play with energy after all the circumstances that we’ve gone through over the last couple of years.
“The biggest thing we want is to just prove people wrong. Prove that we’re capable of playing and playing well and capable of beating some very tough opponents.”
The underdog card has been played internally, but Holtmann denied relying on it heavily. The Buckeyes weren’t picked among the nation’s or even the Big Ten’s elite the last two seasons, and any motivation from that didn’t produce an abundance of wins.
This team is going to go as far as its talent will allow, and that has been stressed.
“We’ll get what we earn, one way or the other,” Holtmann said. “The reality is we know we’re a work in progress … hopefully we’ll continue to grow throughout the season.”
Pop the Advil. It’s time to get things started.