Ohio State’s depth for the 2018-19 season took a blow today when junior center Micah Potter opted to transfer out of the program. The decision could have implications for the 2019 recruiting class, but for now, here are a few things it means for the immediate future for the Buckeyes.
Hello, Jaedon LeDee
Although physically impressive, the writing has been on the wall as the preseason unfolded that freshman Jaedon LeDee was likely ticketed for a minor role this season. At Big Ten media day in mid-October, coach Chris Holtmann was asked about the 6-feet-9, 230-pound Texas native and said that while his natural talents are evident, bigger bodies often have bigger learning curves coming out of high school.
Translation: it was going to be an uphill battle for LeDee to see significant playing time as a freshman. Kaleb Wesson was always going to be the starter, and Potter was set to be his primary backup with other players potentially sliding to the five in smaller lineups. Now, LeDee is the odds-on favorite to assume Potter’s minutes, which last season equated to 10.1 per game – a number skewed by a high ankle sprain that lingered for several weeks.
LeDee is going to play a lot more than the plans were calling for only two days ago. He was ranked No. 10 in our 2018-19 roster power rankings, one spot behind Potter.
Goodbye, ‘Twin Tower’ talk
Frankly, it’s a topic I had vowed not to write about this season until something drastically changed and it became a realistic possibility: could Potter and Wesson see significant minutes together, with Potter at the four and Wesson at the five?
In a word: no. Potter especially really wanted to make this a possibility, and it’s understandable. He’s got an accurate outside shot and could create offensive mismatches on pick-and-roll situations, so the idea was never wholly without merit. The problem comes at the defensive end, where teams playing multiple bigs at the same time are few and far between. Having Potter and Wesson both trying to defend smaller players on the perimeter was a recipe for quick foul trouble and/or easy baskets for opponents.
Yes, Ohio State briefly utilized the two together in last Thursday’s exhibition game against UNC Pembroke. It also played every recruited scholarship player at least 10 minutes each, something else that obviously won’t be possible during the season. Here’s what Holtmann said about Potter and Wesson sharing the court:
“In today’s day and age, it’s hard to play guys like that,” he said. “On rare occasions. When you’re playing two traditional bigs, I think it’s certainly something I would like to look at, but 95 percent of teams don’t play that anymore. It’s dictated by your ball screen coverage. Trust me, we have mountains of film to watch to see how guys can guard one on one and in space. There could be times where it’s looked at but it’s not going to be a steady diet.”
Roles grow for others
LeDee won’t be the only player who could see more time at center than previously thought. Last season, Andre Wesson occasionally manned the position and used his athleticism and defensive abilities to shut down much bigger opponents. Sophomore forward Kyle Young looks ticketed to open the season as the team’s starter at power forward in the position vacated by Keita Bates-Diop last season.
He has also logged practice minutes at center and could be the guy in “small” lineups for the Buckeyes. Either way, Potter’s absence likely means a few more minutes there this season for both returnees.
A new recruiting need
The Buckeyes will welcome in a top-10 recruiting class in 2019 when Alonzo Gaffney, DJ Carton and E.J. Liddell all sign with the program next week. As things stood until today, that gave Ohio State a full roster and closed the book on the class.
It’s not an urgent need to add another post player now in this class, but it might be something the Buckeyes will consider more seriously in the late signing period this spring. Liddell and Gaffney will provide significant ability to the forward positions, but neither seems likely right now to be a collegiate center.