Moments after his predecessor was publicly honored as a member of the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame, men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann spoke with reporters inside the press box at Ohio Stadium.
It was Saturday, and the football team was halfway to a 42-0 win against Cincinnati as Holtmann fielded questions on his team’s health, the feelings as the Buckeyes inch closer to the start of the preseason and Thad Matta’s induction into the hall of fame.
There wasn’t much new ground to cover. Holtmann had just met with reporters less than two weeks prior, and the Buckeyes will not start full practice until the final week of the month. With that in mind, here were the four most newsworthy things Holtmann covered.
Justin Ahrens is still not fully healthy
It’s been a bumpy summer for the Buckeyes on the injury front, with multiple players missing time here and there due to nagging bumps and bruises. In the case of sophomore forward Justin Ahrens, though, it’s lingered into the fall.
“Justin Ahrens is still not cleared for full contact,” Holtmann said. “He’s the only one not cleared. I’m not sure when that timeline’s going to be. I would expect him to be ready for practice, but we’ll see how his recovery continues. He’s been out for a while. He’s finally putting some weight back on.”
A role player last season who had a breakout, 29-point outburst late in the year against Iowa, Ahrens figures to open camp a little bit behind after being unable to spend the summer developing his game.
Terence Dials was one of about five candidates for his new job
Last week, Holtmann announced former Big Ten player of the year Terence Dials as the de facto replacement for Scoonie Penn. After serving as the director of player development for the past two seasons, Penn left for an assistant coaching job in the NBA and Dials was hired as the new director of professional development.
It’s not a coaching position, and Dials will be tasked with helping the members of the team develop professional relationships in the community and prepare themselves for life after basketball. Holtmann said he talked with “four or five” candidates for the position including some women.
“I was looking to change the position a little bit to make it, because it’s a non-coaching position, more about trying to get our guys best prepared for what comes next,” Holtmann said. “I just thought Terence, with his playing slash professional experience in Columbus would be the best candidate. I’m excited about him getting to work.”
The fact that Dials played for Ohio State also helped sway Holtmann’s decision, he said.
Dials was initially scheduled to be at the press conference as well, but plans changed. He was instead with junior center Kaleb Wesson, whom Holtmann said was participating in an NBA/NCAA invitation-only camp.
Using football for recruiting
The Buckeyes had one official visitor on campus in four-star forward Zed Key and three members of the class of 2022 on unofficial visits. One week prior, a pair of top-50 prospects in the 2020 class, Moses Moody and Lance Ware, were both on official visits. Looking forward, Ohio State is expected to host at least one official visitor in each of the next four weekends.
So how does football help with basketball recruiting?
“Some kids love it,” Holtmann said. “Most kids love it. Some are a little bit indifferent to it, which surprises even me, but most kids love it. They eat it up. They’re starry eyed, and when you see us perform like we have in the first half it’s even better. The environment is unbelievable. Buckeye Nation is unbelievable, and it’s the reason why we get them here as early as we can get them here.”
Paying respect to Matta
The winningest coach in program history, Matta was part of the 2019 hall of fame class that was official introduced to the crowd at halftime.
“It’s great seeing (him) and his family,” Holtmann said. “I’m sure Thad will tell you what makes it most special is having all those guys (former players) back by his side. As a coach, that’s why you do it. It’s really cool. Obviously extremely well-deserved. His tenure, I’ve spoken about that, it’s the best. Glad he and his family are coming back and having another day to enjoy all of the fruits of their labor here.”
Among those former players on hand were D’Angelo Russell and Evan Turner, who oddly enough had sideline credentials that read “recruit.” Since both of them did leave Ohio State with eligibility remaining…could Holtmann still find a way to use them?
“They could help,” he said with a laugh. “They could definitely help. They’ve been around. You want to talk about unbelievable ambassadors, D’Angelo came by and spent some time with our guys yesterday, worked out with them. Evan, we know what he’s done. He gave us a bunch of money to renovate our facility. They are fully invested in what we’re doing. They follow us every game. It’s pretty special to see that fraternity of guys.”