Andre Wesson was holding something back, and Chris Holtmann could tell.
This was during Wesson’s senior season at Westerville South, and the Butler basketball coach was working hard to lure Wesson out of state for his 2016 recruiting class.
A three-star prospect at small forward, Wesson was rated the 17th-best Ohioan and the No. 274 recruit nationally, according to 247Sports, but Holtmann saw more. He just didn’t get the sense that Wesson was reciprocating the love.
It took multiple unanswered text messages to hammer home a hard reality to Holtmann: Wesson was waiting and hoping for an offer from the in-state school where his father, Keith, had played and where his younger brother, Kaleb, was committed.
Andre’s gamble paid off. The Wessons helped lead the Wildcats to a state title, and Andre earned that Ohio State scholarship offer.
Then, after one season, he had to sit down and explain a gaggle of unreturned messages to the coach he had spurned in picking the Buckeyes over the Bulldogs. Holtmann took over the Ohio State program in June 2017 after Thad Matta was fired.
"I was actually scared, really," Wesson said Wednesday. "That’s your coach now. It’s like, man, (I) definitely should’ve answered."
In the end, Holtmann got his man. Now, Andre Wesson is the final link to the Matta era at Ohio State and was set to be honored before Thursday’s home game against Illinois alongside walk-on Danny Hummer and managers Sean Gill, Matt Plank and Avery Van Reeth.
Along the way, Wesson has overcome personal struggles that have included a lost summer while dealing with a possible heart condition, a fractured eye socket, two busted teeth and uncounted gashes, bruises and hard knocks.
He’s spilled as much blood on the court at Value City Arena as Holtmann said he could recall for one player. Collectively, he has seen a program grow from a freshman season in which the Buckeyes were passed over for the NIT to one that will reach the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive season.
"He’s an example of tremendous development and maturation as a player," Holtmann said. "You don’t always see that. Just look at his numbers from year to year. … They typify a guy who is really committed to developing and growing his game; just look at his offensive efficiency from his freshman year to his senior year."
Wesson’s offensive rating of 117.7 in Big Ten games is eighth-best in the league, according to KenPom, and marks the fourth straight season he has increased his rating.
His effective field-goal percentage of 60.2 in conference games is second-best and his scoring average of 9.3 entering his final home game was a career high. He also ranked third in the Big Ten in three-point shooting at 45.3%, a number Holtmann specifically cited as proof of his hard work paying off.
There’s also a bigger picture at play, one that Holtmann and his staff prompted months ago.
Before Wesson’s final season, the coaches put a list in his locker of the 16 Ohio State players to have reached three or more NCAA Tournaments over the past 30 years. The most recent was the quartet of Trey McDonald, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson and Amir Williams, who did so from 2011 to ’15. At the bottom of the list was a question in bold, black letters: WHAT LEGACY WILL YOU LEAVE?
That’s a question Wesson takes seriously, even if the final returns won’t be known for weeks.
"It’s been a lot of hard work and committing to the coaches and committing to the university that we want to put Ohio State back on the map," he said. "We want to put them back on the front page. It’s been fun, and I’m glad we’ve been able to do that."
Wesson said there has not been a specific moment where it all clicked for him. Not surprisingly, he said he doesn’t have specific treasured memories of his time at Ohio State.
It’s the day-to-day that he most enjoys.
"I’m always trying to get better, always trying to learn new things, just get in the gym and try to become the best player that I can be," he said. "That’s something that has really been instilled in me from a young age. I’m not the tallest guy, I’m not the fastest, can’t jump the highest, so I’ve got to get in the gym and work."