Ohio State will open its 2019-20 men's basketball season by hosting Cincinnati for the first time in nearly 98 years. The Buckeyes and Bearcats will meet Wednesday in Value City Arena, marking only the 12th time the in-state programs have met and the second time in as many years that they’ve played each other within state lines after having not done so since 1921. In preparation for the start of the season, The Dispatch is counting down with power rankings for each member of the Ohio State roster.
These rankings are an educated guess at which players will have the most significant on-court impact during the course of the season.
No. 2: CJ Walker
Height/weight: 6 feet 1 / 195 pounds
Jersey number: 13
Background: After graduating from Indianapolis Arsenal Tech, where he was named the city’s player of the year as a senior, Walker played two seasons at Florida State before transferring after the 2017-18 season. He sat out last year to satisfy NCAA transfer rules and has two years of eligibility. Walker was a four-star recruit in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, the No. 113 national recruit, the No. 4 prospect from Indiana and the No. 24 point guard in the country. He initially committed to Purdue.
Career stats: In 68 games for the Seminoles, Walker averaged 6.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists while playing 18.0 minutes per game. As a sophomore, he started 34 games.
Need to know: Walker was born in Alaska and moved to Indianapolis when he was young. He has no memories of having lived in Alaska, he told The Dispatch, and hasn’t been back since — although he’d like to go, sometime. Walker’s career high of 24 points came against Rutgers on Nov. 28, 2017. As a freshman, Walker was part of the “Boom Squad,” a group of bench players who brought high energy to the Seminoles and combined to score 40 percent of their points. He had been recruited by Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann while he was at Butler.
2018-19 recap: Unable to play, Walker helped run the scout team and put pressure on seniors C.J. Jackson and Keyshawn Woods throughout the year. When the Buckeyes’ season ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Woods said the 2019-20 team would take a major leap and cited the addition of Walker as the primary reason.
2019-20 outlook: It has been more than 500 days since Walker last played in a college basketball game, and he knows it. During the final week leading into Wednesday’s exhibition game against Cedarville, Walker said he actually calculated the exact number. That’s how amped up he is to get back onto the court.
“He’s pretty eager to get out there,” Holtmann said. “Our fans are going to love him once they get to know him. He’s a tremendous kid and provided maturity and leadership that we’ve desperately needed with this group.”
On a team with seven scholarship players in their first or second years with the program, Walker’s two seasons with the Seminoles establish him as the leader in the backcourt. Holtmann sent him as one of three player representatives to Chicago for Big Ten media day, and it’s clear that he will assume a captain-like role on the team. He’s not a pure scorer, but he’s capable of pushing the ball in transition and is an above-average defender.
“Being a leader, it was kind of hard last year not being able to play and wanting to say something but you’re not contributing,” Walker said. “It’s kind of hard to find that balance. I was able to take that and use it to this year and use it for the better. My teammates believe in me. They’ve got respect for me and likewise.”
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