A pair of Buckeyes are continuing to progress from recent lower-leg injuries.
Tuesday, one day before Ohio State was set to host Northwestern at Value City Arena, senior guard C.J. Jackson and sophomore forward Kyle Young each said things are getting better for their left ankle (Jackson) and lower right leg (Young).
On Sunday at Michigan State, Jackson was fouled while cutting through the paint early in the second half and came up limping when he appeared to land on someone’s foot. He grimaced in immediate pain and tried to shake it off, but he was significantly limited for the duration of the game.
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The injury has not been diagnosed, but asked about it Tuesday afternoon Jackson said, “It’s getting better by the day. I just got out of the training room, so hopefully I’ll be good to go today.”
The players typically go directly from interviews to practice.
Young, meanwhile, suffered a stress fracture to his lower right leg at least partially brought on by a hard foul in a January 18 home loss to Maryland. He missed the next four games, returned for the Penn State game on DATE and has played in the last four games since. In those four games, he’s averaged 19.8 minutes, 4.8 minutes and 3.8 rebounds.
Coach Chris Holtmann has said the staff is trying to limit his minutes somewhat, and Tuesday Young said he’s still dealing with some pain in the leg.
“Still just trying to keep up with rehab every day, trying to make my leg stronger, icing it all the time,” he said. “I figured it was going to have some soreness here and there. I’m not trying to let it affect my game or anything like that. I want to still go out there and play as hard as I can every single play. Usually once I get going, it feels pretty good.”
Fine with ‘boring’
Having lost two straight games to fall to 6-8 in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes find themselves again in the NCAA Tournament conversation as a bubble team. For a second straight week, Holtmann was asked questions about the bubble, if he pays attention to it, if he wants his players paying attention to it and, if not, how he tries to caution them against paying too much attention to it.
The answer, which figures to be repeated often between now and Selection Sunday, was basically “no.”
“We’ve talked about it in the past a time or two, but I’m not quite sure what the benefit of talking about it is,” Holtmann said. “What are you gaining from that? Our focus needs to be on getting better and preparing for Northwestern and trying to limit our turnovers and trying to do basketball things that this team needs to do to improve. Try to keep our guys in a positive frame of mind. They know there’s a lot more season to be played, but their only focus needs to be on, ‘Can we be better today in preparation for what’s coming tomorrow?’
“It sounds boring, and I’m OK with that.”
Jackson said there’s not a need to look too far ahead and that the players are aware of that.
“We know it’s got to be a day-by-day process and if you keep putting enough good days together in a couple weeks we’ll look up and see we’re sitting where we want to be,” he said.
It wasn’t long after the 2017-18 season came to a close that Jackson was asked about trying to step into a bigger leadership role for his senior season. Among the work Jackson said he was putting in was an effort to spend more time with Young, helping to bring him along and better prepare him for a more significant role as a sophomore.
Now, with six games left in the regular season, how has that gone?
“This offseason, we definitely developed a closer relationship, hanging out, getting to know each other,” Young said. “We were close last year, but definitely more this year and I think that helped a lot with my game this year. Knowing I had him behind me I was more confident knowing I could play at this level.”
Asked if they’re close enough to know favorite movies or things of that nature, both players laughed.
“I don’t know about that close,” Young said. “We hang out. Just chill, stuff like that. Guy things.”
They did recently spend some time together for a meaningful day, however.
“Last week we went to go get a bite to eat with Danny (Hummer) after one of the games,” Jackson said. “Kyle had a birthday so I went to his birthday dinner or party or whatever. Little things like that that we probably wouldn’t have connected with as much last year as we do this year.”