Youthful OSU men have plenty to prove
CHICAGO — An appearance at Big Ten media day can verge on exhausting. From a televised news conference to on-air interviews to radio hits and then an hour-long sitdown with reporters, the day can tax even the best-intentioned of coaches or players.
At a large roundtable that marked his final stop of the day, Ohio State junior forward Andre Wesson was all smiles Thursday afternoon.
“It’s been real fun,” Wesson said while wearing a suit complete with a scarlet pocket square. “Anytime you get to represent your team at something like this, it’s a real honor and something that you’re proud to be a part of.”
The challenge now is to bring that fun into the season, where questions abound for a Buckeyes team picked to finish eighth in the media poll conducted jointly by The Dispatch and the Athletic. Ohio State, which also was represented at media day by senior C.J. Jackson, did not place anyone on the preseason all-conference team.
Clearly, there are questions about this team. Throughout his day, coach Chris Holtmann said there were two he fielded more than the rest.
“How are you going to replace Keita (Bates-Diop) and JT (Jae'Sean Tate), and what do you think about being picked towards the bottom again?” he said. “They’re wondering like all of us are: What are you going to do without all these guys? Will we use it (as motivation)? I don’t know. We’ve got to prove it, that we’re a team that is capable of competing at the top of this league.”
Those answers won’t be known for some time. Roughly halfway into the preseason, Ohio State finally had its new fan-voted court installed Thursday morning — it features the state outline at center court and team-colored piping along the sidelines reminiscent of a football helmet — but is hoping to consistently have its full team to utilize it. Just once so far have the Buckeyes seen their full roster lace up their shoes for practice, and that was earlier this week.
No injuries were serious, Holtmann said, and as of now everyone is expected to be available for the season opener. But it’s prevented some of the consistent play the coaches have been looking for.
“It’s been good, but I think it’s been hard for our guys,” Holtmann said. “We’re now going much longer than what we went in the summer. Now they’re adjusting to that. But it’s been good, and it’s been necessary.”
Transfer guard CJ Walker, who will sit out this season, has been fully cleared to participate after dealing with a shoulder injury that hadn’t been cleared for the start of camp. Junior Micah Potter and sophomore Kyle Young received praise for having had strong starts to camp, while Holtmann cited freshman guard Luther Muhammad as a player the Buckeyes will need contributions from.
Jackson, a player Holtmann said has the potential for a standout season, said he’s seen improvement across the board from his teammates since their summer exhibition trip to Spain.
“At that point we didn’t know what we had or what we’d be able to do,” he said. “Now we know a little bit about each guy and what their tendencies are. We’re making strides every day.”