Big man heads into his sophomore season eager to expand his game and be more versatile and explosive

COLUMBUS  The NBA Draft has long represented a goal for Kaleb Wesson. This year, it provided a warning to the Ohio State sophomore.

“I was watching the draft and I didn’t see anybody who was 6-10, 270, just a low-post scorer,” he said Wednesday at Value City Arena. “It was actually a lot of motivation. I thought that one aspect of my game would get me there, but I had a (wrong) way of thinking that. Watching the draft really put that in concrete for me. That part of the game’s not there anymore. You have to expand your game.”

Wesson earned Big Ten all-freshman honors after averaging 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds while quickly playing his way into the starting lineup with his low-post game. As the Buckeyes reached the NCAA Tournament, though, he found his opportunities and minutes limited as opponents used smaller lineups that kept him off the floor.

Playing a season-low seven minutes against South Dakota State and only 12 minutes against Gonzaga made Wesson resolve to expand his game. The draft then just solidified those thoughts.

This summer, he has been working on guarding who he described as the team’s two quickest guards — senior C.J. Jackson and freshman Duane Washington — and practicing his outside shot. He was 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) from 3-point range last season, with head coach Chris Holtmann occasionally joking about wanting to bench him for attempting outside jumpers.

Those aren’t the only goals for improvement. Holtmann often has said Wesson needs to become a more explosive player around the basket, and he has been working with strength and conditioning coach Quadrian Banks to address that.

“I didn’t catch any (alley-oops) last year,” Wesson said with a smile. “I see a lot of pick-and-rolls, a lot of guards are throwing ’oops to the bigs instead of just bounce passes.”

Then there’s the question about his weight. Wesson famously cut his weight drastically from his junior season at Westerville South before getting to Ohio State, and said he’s aiming to play at around 250-to-255 pounds this season. His brother, junior forward Andre Wesson, has been helping with that by pointing out what he should and shouldn’t eat when they are out together.

By the end of last season, he said, he weighed in at 289 pounds.

“That kind of hurt my pride a little bit last year, not being able to guard some of the smaller guys, some of the perimeter guys,” the sophomore said. “That held me back from playing in the games.”