Ohio State men's basketball: Kaleb Wesson eyes NBA draft, remains a Buckeye

Adam Jardy

After leading Ohio State in scoring and rebounding during his sophomore season, center Kaleb Wesson has decided to test the NBA draft waters while retaining his NCAA eligibility.

At a Wednesday press conference at Value City Arena, Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann said the 6-foot-9, 270-pound Wesson will remain in close contact with the Ohio State program and follow proper protocols while getting allowable feedback from the NBA.

“I want to make that clear, that he is going to go through this process and maintain his NCAA eligibility,” Holtmann said. “I fully support him in going through this process. We’re going to walk through it with him. That process has begun, about a week ago, and we’ll see where it leads. We’ve begun to gather some information from the advisory committee for guys that are going through this process and that’s been helpful. Kaleb is anxious to get feedback.”

He’s not the first Ohio State player to do so. Three years ago, Trevor Thompson took advantage of the new rule and tested the waters before returning for his redshirt junior season at Ohio State and ultimately leaving with a year of eligibility remaining. During the 2017 offseason, Kam Williams did the same before returning as a fifth-year senior for Holtmann’s first season. Wesson has until June 10 to withdraw his name and return to college.

As a freshman, Wesson was named to the Big Ten’s all-freshman team after averaging 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game and starting 30 of 33 games. He blossomed as a sophomore, upping those averages to 14.6 and 6.9, respectively, but did miss the final three games of the regular season due to a suspension for an unspecified violation of an athletic department policy. He was named honorable mention all-Big Ten.

“Kaleb really made significant strides from one year to the next,” Holtmann said. “He had real significant improvement and growth. For him, he understands that that’s got to continue to happen, but I support him going through this process and the feedback he’s going to get. We’ll see together what it looks like for him.”

Last summer, Wesson said watching the NBA draft was an eye-opening experience because he saw no players being drafted with similar body types to his own. That led him to trim down a bit and work on developing an outside shot.

Before the start of the season, Wesson said on media day that he had plans for his four-year career at Ohio State.

“Right now, I don’t think I’m ready to play in the NBA today,” he said, seated inside the practice gym at Value City Arena on Sept. 26. “If they put me in front of DeMarcus Cousins right now, I’m confident enough now I’m not about to say he’s about to go out there and kill me or anything. I want to be able to say I will give somebody 20 points and 10 rebounds every game and right now, I don’t feel confident enough to say that.”

When he eventually gets to the NBA, Wesson said, he wants “to be ready. I don’t want to have to sit out a year and GMs are telling me that we’re going to work you out for 2-3 more years. I want to be able to go in there and say, ‘You can start,’ or, ‘You can do what you want to do.’ I know right now, two-year and one-year players, that’s fine and everything but a lot of people are saying they’re not ready to play right now and you don’t see them on the court. They might be posting pictures on Instagram in a uniform and playing G-league games, but I want to be in the NBA. I don’t want to be a G-League player.”

The NCAA further tweaked the rules last summer, allowing players to essentially hire an agent to help navigate them through this process. Holtmann said he’s not sure if Wesson will do so, noting that should he opt to return the relationship with the agent will be terminated in order to maintain eligibility.

Holtmann also reiterated that there is very little downside to taking advantage of the opportunity to get NBA input on a player’s development.

“I think the feedback’s always good,” he said. “I think Kaleb is bright and his family, I think, has a good and reasonable understanding of what this process and where he currently is. All that’s really helpful. I don’t know what I would put odds on, but we’re every day kind of getting feedback that gives us and gives him a better idea of where he stands. NBA organizations have to determine from here, do they want to have him a part of their workouts, those kinds of things.”


Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Basketball podcast: