He has seen the criticisms and picked up on the vibe throughout the fan base. So having been around since the first day of the Chris Holtmann regime at Ohio State, Keith Wesson decided to speak his mind.
In a recent, unsolicited phone call to The Dispatch, Wesson — whose sons, Andre and Kaleb, have been on the roster for all three seasons that Holtmann has coached the men's basketball team — said he and his family believe the Buckeyes to be in good hands both now and in the future with Holtmann at the helm.
“I went through a coaching change when I played,” said Wesson, who during his five years at Ohio State played for Eldon Miller before finishing with one year under Gary Williams. “I didn't like it. Having gone through it, I was a little hesitant even though we'd had some connections” with Holtmann, who previously coached at Butler.
This experience, Wesson added, was different.
“It was night and day,” he said. “For us, he's been fantastic.”
Hired to replace Thad Matta in June 2017, Holtmann inherited Andre Wesson, who was one season into his college career, as well as a commitment from Kaleb, who was entering his freshman year. Both grew into prominent starting roles during the ensuing three seasons, with Kaleb finishing as the team's leading scorer and rebounder in each of the past two seasons.
In the offseason between his sophomore and junior year, the younger Wesson shed nearly 50 pounds, reshaping his body and filling a different role in the Ohio State game plan in 2019-20.
As Kaleb assumed more of a perimeter role, Keith Wesson said he placed a phone call one night to Holtmann asking why his son wasn't getting the ball in the post more frequently.
“He explained their offensive philosophy, what they were doing to utilize Kaleb on offense and how that would also help him with the NBA,” Keith Wesson said. “And you know what? He was absolutely right.”
Since the premature end of this season, in March before the Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes have lost three members of the team with eligibility remaining: freshman D.J. Carton transferred to Marquette, sophomore Luther Muhammad transferred to Arizona State, and freshman Alonzo Gaffney left the program with the intent to pursue a professional career.
In addition, Kaleb Wesson has put his name into the NBA draft while retaining his collegiate eligibility.
Gaffney's father, Kevin Gaffney, told The Dispatch that the family wasn't pleased with his lack of playing time in his first and only season.
“He's not wanted down there,” he said on March 22. “It's a shame they would treat an Ohio kid like that. That's real tough for him, especially mentally. He's finishing spring semester, and I talked to the compliance office about the transfer protocol. We'll leave our options open.”
Keith Wesson made it clear that he could only speak about the experience of his sons and not that of other players on the team, but he said that criticism of Ohio State for having lost Carton, Gaffney and Muhammad one season after losing first Micah Potter (Wisconsin) and then Jaedon LeDee (TCU) to transfer is unfair.
Last spring, when Kaleb explored his NBA draft stock, his father said the family was assisted every step of the way by the Ohio State program. That wasn't the case for friends whose sons played at other schools, Keith said, which resulted in the Wessons forwarding informational emails to help players at what he termed “blue-blood” programs that he declined to specify.
“I don't know what people leaving are feeling,” he said. “That's on the kid if they think that it's better to go somewhere else. I think the program is in great hands. I couldn't be happier with the opportunities that were provided for Kaleb and Andre.”