BOISE, Idaho — Micah Potter had been playing the best basketball of his Ohio State career up until his legs tangled with a Northeastern player late in the fourth game of the season.
The resulting high-ankle sprain cost Potter his spot in the starting lineup and roughly a month of his sophomore season. It also gave the Buckeyes one fewer big man as they headed to Portland, Oregon, to face Gonzaga in the PK80 Invitational.
Now Potter is fully healthy and ready to contribute against the Bulldogs as the teams meet Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But his role likely won’t be what it would have been the last time if not for the injury.
“We have a next-game mentality so at that point we’re focused on the Northeastern game,” he said Friday at Taco Bell Arena. “Gonzaga was definitely in the back of my mind because they were in the national championship game the year before and they’re always a solid team. I was definitely looking forward to that, but that’s not what God had planned for me.”
His absence allowed an opening for freshman Kaleb Wesson, who started the first game of his collegiate career in the 27-point loss to Gonzaga. He has started the last 29 games of the season, twice earning Big Ten freshman of the week honors and eventually landing on the all-freshman team.
Wesson was limited in Ohio State’s first-round win against South Dakota State due to the style of play the Jackrabbits brought to the game. His seven minutes were a season low, and it was his first scoreless game. Coach Chris Holtmann has said the Buckeyes are preparing to play a more traditional lineup Saturday, which will mean a steadier diet of Wesson.
“It’s always good to be on the court,” Wesson said. “I feel like I’ll be able to use more of my physical nature, being a big body. The refs are going to let us play more because there’s bigger bodies out there.”
That could mean more minutes for Potter, who has seen limited opportunities since his return. He averaged 11.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in the first three games before going down with the injury against Northeastern.
“I feel like that definitely gave everyone a little window into how good I want to be,” he said. “I don’t think that’s as good as I want to be in the long run, but it was definitely showing people how hard I worked over the summer to get better. I definitely think that was a little sneak-peak of what’s to come.”
Potter played only two minutes against South Dakota State, but he did nab an offensive rebound off a missed free throw.
“Micah’s got to do what he can do,” Holtmann said. “We don’t look at this as this is necessarily a completely different game because Micah is playing. Micah’s got to be ready to go and play and give us what he can do for us, which is when he’s played well he’s given us a lift on the glass, he’s given us a lift inside and he’s been able to make a shot.”