Kaleb Wesson’s body type and skill set still make him somewhat of a rarity in college basketball. It’s why Creighton coach Greg McDermott, when preparing to face Ohio State on Nov. 15, decided to double-team the sophomore big man at every opportunity.
“We don’t have anybody that can guard Kaleb one-on-one so we ran at him a couple different ways and at least kept him off-balance and forced a few turnovers doing that,” McDermott said after Wesson was held to nine points with three turnovers in a 69-60 Ohio State win.
Since that night, it’s been a different story. Albeit against inferior competition as South Carolina State, Samford and Cleveland State came to town, the 6-foot-9, 270-pound Wesson has scored 18, 19 and 19 points in his past three games. He has helped No. 16 Ohio State get off to a 6-0 start with Syracuse coming to Value City Arena for Wednesday’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge game.
Those 19-point performances tie Wesson’s career high, a total he’s now hit three times. After the past two games, he’s credited his teammates for simply putting him in the best positions to score.
That might only be part of it. Samford coach Scott Padgett, an eight-year NBA veteran who was the starting power forward on Kentucky’s 1998 NCAA championship team, called Wesson “a bully” and meant it in a positive manner.
South Carolina State coach Murray Garvin lamented the fact that his Bulldogs couldn’t grow a player who could match Wesson’s stature, pointing out that their most-comparable big man was the starting right tackle on the school’s football team.
Cleveland State’s Dennis Felton said it’s obvious that Ohio State wants to run its offense through Wesson.
“He’s very heavy and wide and strong and he’s terrific at using his girth to seal for angles,” he said. “We knew that was going to be a challenge.”
This three-game stretch is the most prolific of Wesson’s career, 20 points better than any other such trio of games.
Despite the results of the Creighton game, as well as the prior home win against Purdue Fort Wayne, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said part of Wesson’s recent form has to do with teams not applying as much pressure on the big man.
“Kaleb understands how to play,” Holtmann said. “There’s some teams that are going to really limit his scoring, and he’s going to have to recognize that and be able to make the right basketball play. That’s been a byproduct, too; he’s seen more single coverage and done a good job of handling it.”
That will be put to the test by Syracuse, which will bring its patented zone to town. Syracuse makes low-post touches tough to come by, but the Buckeyes will still look to get Wesson the ball in multiple spots on the court.
His shot attempts are not up dramatically from last year, Friday’s 15-shot performance against Cleveland State aside. Some of Wesson’s success has come from drawing fouls and getting to the line. His rate of 7.2 fouls drawn per 40 minutes is 71st nationally.
Credit his size and the rest of the Buckeyes.
“I wouldn’t say I’m looking for my shot more,” he said. “I’d say I feel I have more opportunities because of my teammates. I feel like if more people step up I’ll get more shots.”