There is an alternate reality somewhere where right now Musa Jallow is playing out his senior season at Bloomington North High School in Indiana.
But instead Jallow selected the path where he graduated early from high school and enrolled at Ohio State. And on Thursday, the 17-year-old made his first start and turned in a complete stat sheet as the Buckeyes improved to 3-0 with an 82-64 win against Texas Southern.
If not for Chris Holtmann landing the Ohio State job in June and desperately needing at least one more capable guard to fill out his roster, Jallow might have stayed in high school.
So he wouldn’t have been at a postgame news conference where teammate Micah Potter implored anyone listening to address Jallow by his nickname, “Moose,” whenever he excels at something.
If Jallow was still in high school, what would he have been doing that night?
“I think they played tonight, maybe,” he said. “I’d probably be in the gym, thinking about this moment right here.”
There has been no lamenting a senior season lost or a rush to maturity for Jallow. He graduated early with a 4.0 grade-point average to ensure he would have such a possibility available and he wasn’t engaging in too much nostalgia after the win over Texas Southern.
When he was asked if the moment felt surreal, Jallow said, “Not really. Coming here, I always felt like this was what I was supposed to do. I never felt like I was skipping a chapter or something, like I’m not supposed to be here. I feel like this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.”
He did a bit of everything for the Buckeyes on Thursday. In 29 minutes, Jallow had 13 points, six rebounds, four steals and two assists while committing zero turnovers. He earned an offensive rebound on Ohio State’s first possession and fed Potter, who was fouled while shooting.
During the preseason, senior forward Jae’Sean Tate said Jallow had already distinguished himself as the team’s top offensive rebounder. Potter, who also had a career-high 17 points against Texas Southern, said his skills on the glass were immediately evident.
“The one thing he did was he offensive-rebounded the crap out of the ball,” Potter said. “He got his hands on everything.”
Twice during the second half, he read the action Texas Southern had drawn up and intercepted intended lob passes to its 7-foot-2 center.
“His back-line deflections late were really critical,” Holtmann said. “Musa coming over and getting some of those deflections and having awareness to do that speaks a lot about, to me that was as impactful as anything.”
With every accomplishment, Jallow’s teammates increasingly bellowed out his nickname from the bench. When their news conference was complete, Potter walked into the lower level of the arena and bellowed out, “Moose!” as it echoed about.
If he continues to play like this, that chorus is only going to grow.