In the middle seat at a table placed inside a practice gym he knows better than anyone on the team, Joey Lane had to listen. First, to his left, came words of praise from graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods, who lauded the senior guard for helping welcome him to Ohio State with open arms last summer.
Then, from Lane’s right, came effusive praise from senior C.J. Jackson, who arrived one year after Lane as a transfer from Eastern Florida State Community College. Jackson praised Lane’s overwhelming positivity, an outlook maintained despite his limited playing role as a walk-on.
So where does that attitude come from? Lane gave his best effort at an answer but didn’t get very far.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
“I was the same dude in high school even when I was playing all the time,” he said, eyes reddening. “It’s harder to be positive. It’s definitely not easy. It’s hard …”
By this point, Lane had to look downward, hands over his face, as the tears he’d been fighting finally burst to the surface. He reached out with both hands, clasped his teammates by the shoulder for strength, received physical support from Woods in return and finished his thought with, “It’s easy to be positive for these dudes. It’s easy.”
What else was there to say? Regaining his composure, Lane and his teammates stood as the news conference ended two days before Sunday’s final home game of the season. For the trio, plus seven student members of the team’s support staff, it will be senior day.>> Read more: Chris Holtmann keeps a positive outlook on postseason
The festivities always mean something different to those being honored. Coach Chris Holtmann said Lane’s emotions said plenty about his impact on the program despite having played in just 34 games.
“A guy gets emotional on senior day before the day even happens; you know it means a lot to him and it does and his family,” Holtmann said. “Joey cares at such a high level. Cares about the team, really wants Ohio State to win. There’s a reason he’s so beloved by the students. He’s going to have great success in his post-basketball career because of those things.”
For Lane, that will entail a summer internship at Nike, where he hopes to start to put his business degree to use. The path to that degree was laid out long ago, though, thanks to significant family ties to the university.
Lane’s maternal grandmother came to Ohio State from New Jersey when she was 16 years old in 1942, roomed with some girls from Toledo and eventually married the brother of one of them in 1946. Three of their children, including Joey’s mother, Nancy, went on to graduate from Ohio State.
Although Joey graduated from Deerfield, Illinois, where his family lives, such a big crowd is expected that he said his mother purchased extra tickets to accommodate them all.
“People I haven’t seen in years,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to see people care about me and want to be here for that last game.”
Lane’s social media account was besieged with comments Friday when a video produced by Ohio State and featuring multiple members from the Nuthouse student section circulated. In that video, too, Lane had to fight back tears when discussing what his time at Ohio State has meant to him.
Before the season, sophomore forward Musa Jallow told Lane that he had a strong feeling the senior would find himself playing in at least one meaningful situation despite his status as a walk-on who had been placed on scholarship.
It happened during the first half of the Big Ten opener against Minnesota on Dec. 2, and Lane also started the second half at Purdue on March 2. Throughout the season, Holtmann said he’s leaned on Lane when seeking the pulse of the team and often had him address the team and share his experiences of having been on teams that lacked unity.
All this from a player with 85 career minutes of playing time.
“I didn’t think in a million years I’d be here,” Lane said. “It’s pretty crazy. It’s been a heck of a ride.”