There was just one moment of doubt as Kaleb Wesson went through his offseason personal transformation.
Weighing in at 289 pounds when his sophomore season ended, Wesson realized that goals for bigger things would involve him getting smaller. That meant increasing his offseason workouts, rededicating himself to his overall game and committing to a lifestyle that would help him shed more than 30 pounds.
Then a sliver of doubt appeared in the form of a snack.
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“I think it was a seaweed crisp or something like that,” Wesson said. “A kale chip. (I thought), ‘If this is what healthy is, maybe I’m not supposed to be healthy.’ ”
It was just a blip on the radar for Wesson, who entered his junior season with an eye on blazing his way into the NBA by dominating for Ohio State. Although he’s listed at 270 pounds, Wesson has told reporters that he reported for the preseason at 255 pounds and will remain at that weight in-season by sticking with his new diet and routine.
Eating these days involves getting as many colors on his plate as he can, Wesson said, while cutting down on carbohydrates and empty calories. The hardest thing to cut out?
“They told me I shouldn’t be eating sour cream no more, and that’s what really killed me,” he said. “I put that on almost everything. I was sick about the sour cream.”
This physical transformation, which figures to be a talking point all season, was about much more than food. At his new playing weight, Wesson figures to be a more agile and durable player who can potentially improve upon his team-leading averages of 14.6 points and 6.9 rebounds from last season.
It was evident in the opener against Cincinnati. As the Bearcats made it nearly impossible to force the ball into the post, the Buckeyes kept Wesson on the perimeter during the second half to help spread the defense and create opportunities for his teammates. He made two three-pointers, something he has worked to add to his game, and stayed on the court for 35 minutes while playing what coach Chris Holtmann described as one of his best overall games.
His older brother, Andre, saw the entire process unfolding.
“During the offseason you could definitely tell he was motivated and focused to lose weight, especially after going through the whole draft process and hearing what all the NBA executives had to say,” the senior said. “He’s definitely been working and just getting after it.”
With a smile during one pregame interview session, sophomore guard Luther Muhammad cut off teammate Kyle Young mid-thought to point out that Wesson has been jumping like never before in his Ohio State career, adding that “he’s been dunking on guys.”
Some of that work came at Value City Arena, where Wesson added boxing with strength and conditioning coach Quadrian Banks to his regimen. Not far away, he started putting in time with personal trainer Renny Tyson at the Woodward Park Community Center in Westerville.
They got started one week after last season.
“He just wants it,” Tyson said. “You’re going to see a different Kaleb out there. He’s just going to be a lot meaner. He wants the ball and he wants to score, but I think he’s going to have less fouls this year because of his weight.”
The early returns weren’t what Wesson had been hoping for. For the first few weeks, he said, he’d look down after a full week only to have dropped two or three pounds. Some frustration would follow, he said, but he kept with it and saw a payoff by the time he had his second and final NBA workout. After struggling in a workout at Atlanta, he went to Boston and made 74 of 100 shots, leading one front-office member for the Celtics to call him the best-shooting big man they had seen all offseason.
“The best thing is that I’m more mobile now,” he said before the season. “Those fouls I was getting as far as fatigue fouls and moving people around, those are negated. There’s not many fatigue fouls anymore.”
His profile figures to only grow during what is expected to be a successful season for Ohio State. With it will come the questions about the process, the transformation and the hope of staying in shape.
Wesson doesn’t mind. Answering repetitive questions is easier than eating a kale chip.
“It’s just another question like, how tall are you?” he said. “It’s something I’ve been asked a lot. I changed my body and people are noticing it and that’s a good thing.”