Ohio State men's basketball spotlight: Kaleb Wesson
Ohio State will open its 2018-19 men's basketball season by playing its first game at Cincinnati in 98 years. The Buckeyes and Bearcats will meet at the newly renovated Fifth Third Arena on Nov. 7, marking only the 11th time the in-state programs have met and the first time they’ve played each other within state lines since 1921. In preparation for the game, The Dispatch is counting down the final 14 days with power rankings for each of the members of the Ohio State roster. The series continues with the 13th player in our rankings.
No. 2: Kaleb Wesson
Height/weight: 6 feet 9 / 270 pounds
Jersey number: 34
Background: The product of Westerville South, Wesson is the third member of his family to play at Ohio State. His father, Keith, played for the Buckeyes from 1983-87 and his older brother, Andre, is a junior on this year’s team. A former offensive lineman, Wesson weighed as much as 325 pounds in high school but has slimmed down significantly during the last two years. As a junior, he helped lead South to a Division I state championship while averaging 14.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. That year, he was also named to the 2015-16 USA Men’s Junior National Team. As a senior, he was Ohio’s Mr. Basketball after averaging 21.3 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 66.5 percent from the field. Wesson was a four-star recruit in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, where he was listed as the top prospect from Ohio, the No. 6 center in the nation and the overall No. 75 recruit.
2017-18 stats: A member of the Big Ten’s all-freshman team, Wesson averaged 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in 33 games including 30 starts. He shot 56.2 percent from the field and twice was named the conference’s freshman of the week.
Need to know: His name on Twitter is listed as “Steele Madison,” which is apparently an inside joke among his friends. “Steele Madison? That’s my alter ego,” he said during the summer. “That’s classified information. It’s just my alter ego.” During the summer, Wesson spent time playing guard C.J. Jackson one-on-one in an effort to improve his quickness. During Ohio State’s three-game trip to Spain this summer, Wesson led the Buckeyes with 47 points on 19-of-28 shooting (68.0 percent) and had 17 rebounds, four steals and three assists.
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2017-18 recap: Wesson opened the season as the backup to Micah Potter at center, then took a step back when he was suspended for the third game of the season for an unspecified violation of team rules. Message sent, Wesson returned to the lineup against Northeastern as Potter’s backup but was thrust into the starting role when the sophomore went down with a high ankle sprain. He made his first career start against Gonzaga in the PK80 Invitational in Portland, Oregon, and did not come out of the starting lineup for the remainder of the year. He scored a career-high 19 points in a blowout road win against Wisconsin in the team’s Big Ten opener, only needing 17 minutes to do so, and recorded the lone double-double of his career with a 10-point, 10-rebound effort against Illinois on Feb. 4. After playing a career-high 33 minutes in a win at Indiana to close the regular season, defensive mismatches limited him to only 39 minutes in Ohio State’s three postseason games during which he had eight points and six rebounds.
2018-19 outlook: This is expected to be a big season for the big fella, who is the second-leading returning scorer and top rebounder. Close to the rim, Wesson has spent time in the offseason working on his explosiveness in order to help him jump higher and be more forceful in the paint. Among those goals: dunk more, but maybe not a lot more. “Go to the barbershop, they ask me why I don’t dunk,” he said as the preseason got underway. “Teachers ask me why I don’t dunk. It’s just not me.” Much of the Ohio State offense went through Keita Bates-Diop last season, and this year that role figures to be filled by Wesson to a certain degree. He had what looked like an effortless 12-point, 10-rebound performance in the exhibition game against UNC Pembroke. But further from the hoop, Wesson is expected to be able to stretch opposing defenses by adding an outside jumper to his game. He’s not going to lead the Buckeyes in three-point shooting, but he is likely to be attempting as many as three per game at the urging of the coaching staff. “He’s been working, shooting the ball, his jump hooks, playing inside is really where he’s key at, but I think he’s going to surprise some people by stretching out his range,” assistant coach Terry Johnson said. Wesson has committed himself to transforming his body and taken in stride lessons learned from watching the NBA Draft and not seeing players with his body type being selected. It all adds up to a player who seems mature, poised and physically capable of handling a significant role as a sophomore.
Previous power rankings
No. 3: Keyshawn Woods
No. 4: Andre Wesson
No. 5: Luther Muhammad
No. 6: Kyle Young
No. 7: Duane Washington Jr.
No. 8: Musa Jallow
No. 9: Micah Potter
No. 10: Jaedon LeDee
No. 11: Justin Ahrens
No. 12: Joey Lane
No. 13: Danny Hummer
No. 14: CJ Walker