NEW YORK — It was Friday night in Times Square, and Kaleb Wesson was taking in his first Manhattan experience when he was greeted by an acquaintance. After shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries for a moment, they parted as the Ohio State freshman center, clad in a gray Ohio State jacket, headed in the direction of the famous ruby-red stairs that provide the backdrop for tourist photos and selfies.
Under the flashing neon lights of the sky-high advertisements that brought the aura of daylight to the area despite the lack of sunlight, an older woman quickly approached Wesson and shook her finger.
“I knew you were somebody famous!” she yelled, peering up at the 6-9, 270-pounder with a smile. “I knew it!”
Odds are, if she turns on tonight’s home game against Nebraska, she might know his name after Saturday’s game at Madison Square Garden. Wesson didn’t set career highs in points, rebounds or even minutes played, but his steady production in the paint blunted Minnesota’s athletic attack and helped power the Buckeyes to their seventh straight win.
After he scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting and added eight rebounds in 24 minutes, Wesson was credited by Golden Gophers coach Richard Pitino as being an important piece for the Buckeyes in a season overshadowed by the breakout of junior Keita Bates-Diop.
“He’s efficient,” Pitino said of the freshman. “He’s got a nice touch. The ball just kind of dies into the basket. Give the kid credit.”
Wesson had to do a lot of his work early in order to be successful, beating defenders to spots and catching the ball in good positions. It was the latest sign of development for Wesson, who has scored at least seven points in every game and topped out at 19 in a blowout win at Wisconsin to open Big Ten play.
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann has consistently pointed out that Wesson needs to work harder to avoid foul trouble and said that the upcoming offseason will be crucial for his development. Another summer in the weight room will help Wesson get stronger and become more explosive, two areas that will serve him well during a Big Ten career.
“Kaleb has really been good all year for us,” Holtmann said after the Minnesota game. “He wants to get better. He’s dealing with Big Ten big bodies right now, and we have to work with him on finishing.”
According to KenPom.com, Wesson played his second-most effective offensive game of the Big Ten season against the Golden Gophers, and he was named the team’s MVP. For the season, he is shooting 55.1 percent from the field, tied for 13th-best in the conference.
“I feel like the coaches and players put me in good spots to be successful, so that helped a lot,” he said.
He also drained a transition three-pointer during Ohio State’s game-changing first-half run. He’s now 4 of 11 (36.4 percent) from deep this season.
“It felt good, because I missed the last couple ones,” he said. “I consider myself a shooter now.”
Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Basketball podcast: