Roughly a month after the coronavirus pandemic abruptly pulled the plug on a promising late-season run, Ohio State women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff is mostly stuck at home like the rest of us, tending to the forced home-schooling of six children age 7 to 16.
"If there’s a silver lining in this incredible global crisis, it’s been that I’ve been able to spend more quality time with my family than I normally would," McGuff said.
Normally, April is a bustling month for recruiting, but directives from state leaders, health officials and the NCAA have brought things to a crawl.
"I never knew what Zoom was until recently," McGuff quipped, referring to a video conferencing app that allows him to communicate with his staff.
The lull has given him plenty of time to reflect on the 2019-20 season and what lies ahead for a team that featured seven freshmen, three sophomores and a junior transfer. The Buckeyes won 10 of their final 13 games to finish 21-12 (11-7 Big Ten) and were conference tournament runners-up. OSU was projected as a fifth or sixth seed in the NCAA Tournament.
"At the beginning of the year, we had so many new people and our inconsistency showed," McGuff said. "But I really liked how we played down the stretch, especially in terms of our chemistry and our efficiency at both ends of the floor.
"Naturally, I felt bad that the young kids didn’t get that opportunity to gain the experience of playing in an NCAA Tournament, but I would have felt even worse if it had been a bunch of seniors who were denied."
Ohio State was the only team in the nation with six players averaging between 6.8 and 13.2 points per game, and it had eight. Six-foot-four sophomore forward Dorka Juhasz earned first-team all-Big Ten honors by averaging team-highs of 13.2 points and 9.4 rebounds.
McGuff will lose only two players: injured senior Kavitha Jayaraman, who played only one minute all season, and freshman Kierstan Bell, who announced plans to enter the transfer portal.
A three-time Ohio Ms. Basketball winner, Bell averaged 10.9 points (second best on the team) in just 21 minutes per game. She left the team for personal reasons during a weekend in February and was used sparingly upon her return.
"Kierstan is a really nice kid who did a lot of nice things for us, but the general feeling was that she wanted to find a place where she was more comfortable on and off the floor," McGuff said.
He isn’t certain how, or if, he’ll fill the two vacant roster spots.
"There are a lot of people in the transfer portal, and we potentially could go that route, or we could roll those scholarships over into the ’21 class," he said. "Ideally, we’d like somebody a little older to balance out the program."
McGuff, who was hired as coach in April 2013, also lost an assistant coach and chief recruiter in Carrie Banks, who took the head coaching position at Nebraska-Omaha.
"We’re happy for Carrie," McGuff said. "That’s a terrific opportunity, and I think she’ll knock it out of the park there.
"It’s a hard time to be hiring someone right now in terms of doing interviews, but there’s no need to be in a big hurry. We’re kind of going to share the recruiting load, or what there is of it, and we’ll see what the rest of spring and summer brings."