Ohio State men's basketball | Observations and quotes from Tuesday's practice session
For one night, Ohio State opened the doors to a portion of its practice for its annual tip-off event.
The Sportsmanship Club of Columbus Basketball Tipoff Event, formerly known as the Agonis Club Tip-Off Event, gave fans the opportunity Tuesday night to take in a practice session on the main court at Value City Arena, ask questions of coach Chris Holtmann and then enjoy a meal and meet the members of the 2018-19 team and get autographs.
After senior Joey Lane introduced the entire roster to the roughly 200 fans in attendance and before Holtmann could take a question at the conclusion of the 45-minute practice, one fan shouted out a statement and not a query.
“I want to thank you for scheduling Cincinnati,” he said as several nearby fans applauded.
The Buckeyes open the season Thursday night with an exhibition game against UNC Pembroke, but the season officially kicks off Nov. 7 at Cincinnati as the Bearcats open a newly renovated arena. It’s the first time Ohio State will play at Cincinnati in 98 years, and Holtmann credited athletic director Gene Smith for helping make it happen.
“Let’s see how you feel in a week, right?” Holtmann said in response to the fan’s praise. “Let’s see if you’ll say the same thing in a week. It’s one of the questions we got a lot when we took the job and I’ve been asked about that game a lot, the origins of that game. Gene Smith deserves a lot of credit as well because he didn’t tell me I had to do it, but he encouraged it to happen. Scheduling in big-time college basketball, it can take years to make happen. It just so happened that there was an opening in both of ours for a home-and-home.”
It’ll be the second Ohio team to face the Buckeyes this season. Last Saturday, Ohio State hosted Xavier for a scrimmage that by NCAA rule was closed to fans and the media. Asked about it, Holtmann said there wasn’t much he could say but added a few details.
“It’s a secret scrimmage, so I’m limited in what I can say but overall we learned a lot about our group,” he said. “We played two 20-minute halves. They were without their starting point guard and leading returning scorer, but let’s just say it was favorable for the Buckeyes in a close one.”
Other highlights from Holtmann’s 15-minute question-and-answer session:
• One fan asked if the Buckeyes were practicing some zone defense concepts during the open portion of practice.
“We will zone some this year,” he said. “I think what you were looking at there was a trap that happened in the course of our man-to-man defense. Last year, we had an elite defensive team and we had a team that was really connected defensively. We also had great length with Jae’Sean Tate, who was long and versatile. Keita Bates-Diop, long and versatile. Andrew Dakich, short and not very versatile, but he was instinctively an outstanding defender. Kam (Williams) could shoot it. I’ll leave his defense alone. We lost that and we’re going to really have to work harder to be close to as good as we were last year defensively. That’s a lot, because we were very good defensively last year.”
• Asked about his best scorer, Holtmann cited C.J. Jackson and Kaleb Wesson before adding, “Keyshawn Woods is a transfer who has also scored. He’s going to help us this year. Those guys in particular.”
• Tuesday marked practice No. 23 for “Team 120,” as Holtmann has called the Buckeyes, and everyone was healthy and available.
• Holtmann hasn’t yet settled on a starting lineup.
“I think I know the direction I’m going to go, but I’m not sure,” he said. “We’re still talking about it.”
The open portion of practice was split into three different segments. In the first, the Buckeyes worked on some defensive concepts while mostly engaging four-on-four drills. That included a lot of work hedging ball screens, a critical component to any effective defense in today’s game.
During this portion, Woods flew after a loose ball and collided with a courtside chair, knocking it over and sending him sprawling in the process. His teammates rushed over to pick him up and loudly celebrated his effort in doing so. The same thing happened moments later when Jackson took a charge to end a drill.
Then it was time for some full-sided scrimmaging. Here were the matchups, with players from the Scarlet team listed before their Gray counterparts:
Duane Washington Jr.-Luther Muhammad
Musa Jallow-Justin Ahrens
Kyle Young-Andre Wesson
Kaleb Wesson-Micah Potter
• Andre Wesson took a shot to the face from his younger brother that seemed to dislodge a contact lens and sidelined him for a few minutes. While he was out, he was replaced by freshman Jaedon LeDee. The freshman has drawn praise for his ability to rebound, and he quickly cleaned the glass on successive possessions and twice was on the floor diving after loose balls.
• Muhammad, too, was on the ground going after a loose ball and showed some shooting touch when he drilled a three-pointer. On the ensuing possession, though, he was beaten by a Washington backdoor cut for a layup. These two are going to be fun to watch battle during their Ohio State careers.
• Woods had a nice steal off a pick-and-roll situation and took it coast-to-coast for a contested layup.
• Potter showed some aggression when he went out of his area to grab at least one rebound, and he had a smooth release on a three-pointer that found nothing but net.
• Jallow had a steal-and-slam.
• Once he returned, Andre Wesson again showed signs that he could be ready for a breakout season. Everything about his game looks smooth and confident, including his outside shot.
At the end of practice, the players wound down by shooting dozens of threes and then free throws. The jumpers were uncontested and from different spots around the perimeter, and three players in particular looked locked in: Potter, Washington and Andre Wesson.
To close things up, Holtmann called the entire team over to a portable flatscreen television that had been wheeled to a corner of the court. There, they gathered around while he appeared to show them clips from Monday night’s monster game from Klay Thompson, who hit an NBA record 14 three-pointers against the Chicago Bulls.