The quality of opponent was, at best, a mid-level Division II team in the eyes of Chris Holtmann. It was the final game of Ohio State’s summer trip to Spain, and the Buckeyes had trailed by as many as 15 points to the Catalan All-Stars on Aug. 9 before rallying late for a 68-66 victory.
The specific details aren’t relevant and have no bearing on what kind of season the Buckeyes will have in Holtmann’s second season. But as they clawed their way to a third victory in as many games on the trip, they stuck with the same lineup down the stretch — one that included graduate transfer guard Keyshawn Woods.
Although Holtmann has been consistent in his belief that there are almost no on-court conclusions to draw from the experience, Woods playing an important role in a close game might be as big a harbinger of the upcoming season as any.
“You can see a difference in him, just his seasoning compared to some of the young guys we have,” Holtmann said Wednesday in the first interviews since returning from the early August trip. “He made a couple critical plays. Keyshawn’s going to be an important part of our team. What that looks like, I don’t know, but he’s going to be an important part of our group.”
Woods transferred to Ohio State in April after spending the last three years at Wake Forest. In his first season with the Demon Deacons after sitting out a year following his transfer from Charlotte, Woods was a playmaker who totaled 116 assists and averaged 12.5 points per game.
Last season, his scoring average dipped slightly to 11.9 but his assist total was cut by more than half to 53. Some of that was due to an knee ligament strain suffered during the second game of Atlantic Coast Conference play, he said, but Holtmann said it also shows that he can fulfill multiple roles on a team.
Holtmann has said it’s likely Woods will be asked to distribute the ball more than score this season, but either role is fine by him.
“I’m pretty much going to be doing both,” he said.
Woods, 22, is the oldest player on the roster and carried himself as such Wednesday. His answers were measured and confident, often delivered with less vigor but more thought. He praised the team’s defense down the stretch against the Catalan team.
“This is one of the best teams I’ve been on as a group and how they are and how close they are,” he said. “I have not been on a team like that and I’m real excited to play with these guys for a full season.”