Before Ohio State hops on a plane and heads to Spain on Wednesday morning, the Buckeyes opened the doors for a peek into this season’s men’s basketball roster.
On Tuesday night, more than 500 fans filed into Value City Arena to watch an open practice — the final one of the extra 10 afforded to the program as part of the first foreign trip it will take with coach Chris Holtmann. Part pep rally and part competition, the Buckeyes went through drills and some full-court team situations before bidding farewell for the 12-day trip.
By the time the trip is over, Holtmann pointed out that everyone likely will be ready to come home. With nine players in their first or second year with the program, though, the excitement of being on the cusp of such a trip was evident.
“We haven’t been able to spend as much time (together) as we want to because there are six new guys and we’re all learning each other,” senior C.J. Jackson told the crowd. “We’re going to have a good time, we’re going to play hard and we’re going to play for Ohio State.”
The lineups, much like they will be when the Buckeyes play their three games in Spain, were fluid.
Walk-ons Joey Lane and Danny Hummer were interspersed with key returnees Kaleb Wesson, Musa Jallow and others. Freshmen guards Duane Washington Jr. and Luther Muhammad picked each other up for full-court defense during some five-on-five scrimmaging, and Florida State transfer CJ Walker offered advice to each during breaks from the action.
Although he could play during the trip despite having to sit out the season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Walker will not accompany the Buckeyes to Spain so Holtmann can use all of his minutes on those who will be available to play this year.
“He and I talked, and the situation where he’s not playing on this year’s team, so I said why don’t you go enjoy some time with family,” Holtmann said. “I wanted him to get to spend a little bit of time (there).”
Everyone else is healthy and available, Holtmann said.
“The lineups will really vary,” he said. “I think right now I’m going to start the juniors and seniors that first game and start the upperclassmen. We’ll start three different lineups. We’ll play everybody about equal time, because we’re still learning about our team.”
When practice concluded, Washington started an impromptu “O-H” chant and Holtmann gave the microphone to Lane to introduce every member of the team.
Play-by-play announcer Paul Keels then led seniors Jackson and Lane, and then Holtmann, in a question-and-answer session before each member of the team lined up and walked along the crowd to sign autographs and pose for photos. Holtmann went last, and he lingered until every fan who wanted a minute of his time was satisfied.
“We want the people who follow us to continue to get to know us and to feel an attachment to our program,” he said. “The only way to do that is get out in front of them and get to see and know our guys.”