Threes should be bigger part of Buckeyes' game

Adam Jardy
ajardy@dispatch.com

Ohio State was a lot of things in coach Chris Holtmann’s first season. A surprise team, to be sure, and among the best in college basketball in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com.

But three-point shooting? That wasn’t really a strength for the Buckeyes. Keita Bates-Diop took them, and Kam Williams at times was prolific, but Ohio State didn’t reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament by relying on being proficient from beyond the arc.

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That could change this season. As the Buckeyes are tasked with replacing Bates-Diop’s prolific scoring, Jae’Sean Tate’s paint presence and Williams’ occasional outside threat, they now boast a roster that could find itself shooting — and making — more threes.

“I think we might just have a few more guys,” Holtmann said last week at the team’s media day. “We may not have a guy that was the volume of a Keita or maybe as accurate as Kam was. What I do think is we could have a few more guys out on the floor that you would have to worry about behind the three, including Kaleb.”

That would be Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State’s sophomore center, who averaged 10.2 points per game and made the Big Ten all-freshman team but only took 14 threes, making four. Throughout the summer, Holtmann has cited Wesson as a player with the potential to stretch the floor more this season, and he’s been given more of a green light to shoot from the perimeter.

He won’t lead the team in threes, though. That could go to any number of players, including senior guard C.J. Jackson, who shot 37.9 percent (64 for 169) last year from beyond the arc. But when six returning members from last year’s team were asked about the best shooter on the roster, four different answers were given, including one player who couldn’t pick just one. His response: “everyone.”

“We’ve got a lot of really good shooters on this team,” junior center Micah Potter said. “Pretty much everyone shoots threes. There’s not really a weakness when it comes to shooting on the team. I definitely think we could be a really good three-point shooting team this year.”

For last season, the Buckeyes ranked 260th nationally in three-pointers per field goals attempted. They collectively shot 35.3 percent (239 for 678) from three.

Potter has shown an ability to knock down outside jumpers. The same goes for junior Andre Wesson, who has done so in spurts and said he feels he needs to shoot better for this team to be successful. But much of the hope lies in three freshmen brought into the mix this year: guards Duane Washington and Luther Muhammad and swingman Justin Ahrens.

Washington got a vote from his older teammates as the best shooter on the team, and graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods also adds an outside scoring threat. Holtmann even cited sophomore power forward Kyle Young as a player who has the ability to make threes.

Time will tell, but it’s something on Holtmann’s mind as the season approaches.

“I do think collectively our ability to shoot the ball this year could be a strength for us,” he said after the team’s summer trip to Spain. “Now, we haven’t shot it great in stretches, but our ability to shoot the ball could be one of the strengths of our team.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

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