Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann talks D.J. Carton, Alonzo Gaffney on radio show

Adam Jardy
Ohio State forward Alonzo Gaffney (0) laughs with guard D.J. Carton during the second half of a game against Villanova on Nov. 13. [Adam Cairns]

Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann’s first radio show of the season took place at a different time than in previous years. As the Buckeyes had been moved up to No. 6 in this week’s Associated Press poll, Holtmann’s first show went live at noon rather than its historically consistent 6 p.m. start.

In case you couldn’t listen, here are some of the highlights.

* Holtmann took a submitted question about freshman D.J. Carton from a listener in Celina, Ohio.

“When you talk about D.J., the first thing you being with is his competitiveness,” Holtmann said. “I think that’s the most obvious thing when we recruited him. He’s gifted athletically. I think he’s growing and learning how to play the point guard position at this level both offensively and defensively. His competitiveness, it’s really, really at a high level. I think that’s going to allow him to have an opportunity to have a really special career.”

Carton committed to the Buckeyes after he took a somewhat hastily scheduled official visit during the summer before his senior season. Holtmann discussed that process of planning an official visit during a crucial live evaluation period.

“We set up a weekend and it was during Peach Jam, which is one of the biggest, maybe the biggest recruiting weekends of the year,” Holtmann said. “We spent a lot of hours working on how we were going to be able to see the guys we needed to see … and spend time with D.J. and his family. We really spent a lot of time figuring out how to do it. We met him and his family here on an evening, had breakfast the next morning and I flew out immediately after to see E.J. Liddell play.

“While I was seeing that game, a recruiting beat writer from another school saw I was there and tweeted, ‘Surprised Chris Holtmann would be here with a five-star recruit on campus.’ At that time, D.J. was with our players at a water park here in town. It worked out great and we’re glad to have him. That was a really good weekend for the Buckeyes, it really was.”

* Holtmann also discussed two of Carton’s classmates: Alonzo Gaffney and Liddell.

Liddell is “learning in different ways how physical the game is. He’s learning how consistently hard you have to play at this level to be effective. He’s dealing with the length and size you have to play with at this level. He’s been tremendous for us. The biggest thing for all our freshmen is to keep a positive attitude throughout ups and downs that will happen.”

That led into a discussion about Gaffney, who has not played in two games but played better defense against Morgan State on Friday night.

“I think he’s taking strides in that area and getting better in that area,” Holtmann said. “That’s been a focus for him. I think he’s struggling shooting the ball right now a little bit. Getting used to the physicality of the game and catching the ball in traffic and all those kinds of things. He has had a good attitude right now. He’s a really good rebounder. I think the way he can impact the game the most right now. Physically he’s got to get stronger. We knew that when we recruited him. Tremendous length. I think that translated right away to this level.”

That has led to two specific goals for Gaffney: rebound and play defense.

“I think he has that mind-set right now,” Holtmann said. “We’ve talked to him about can you rebound and can you defend your position right now? If you can do those two things we can build upon that. Let’s not complicate things.”

* Ohio State’s goal each game is to have 10 or fewer turnovers, although the number might shift slightly depending on the tempo and number of possessions in the game, Holtmann said.

* On the injury report, Holtmann said “overall we’re relatively healthy.” No mention was made of junior Musa Jallow, who remains out after undergoing a procedure on his right ankle during the preseason.

Holtmann was asked about how Jallow played late last season.

“It was his best stretch for sure. I think he just really embraced playing to his strengths. We had a lot of heart-to-heart conversations leading up to that in the middle of the season. He was critical for us down the stretch, in particular the Iowa State game.

* When Andre Wesson went out with a fractured right eye socket, sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr. replaced him in the starting lineup and has remained there as Wesson has returned to action.

Holtmann has repeatedly said he could have a fluid starting lineup this season, and he said that remains true with the competition for that spot.

“We’ll look at it,” Holtmann said. “I think it’s going to be pretty fluid with all of our perimeter positions. Those five guys, including Andre and Duane and Luther and D.J. and CJ. I think various guys could start throughout the year and then we’ll play the guys that are playing most effective. I think it’ll be pretty fluid, but we could see. We may need to start a bigger lineup against certain teams, and if we do that we’ll start Andre.”

* With Jallow out, Holtmann cited transfer Justice Sueing as having been particularly beneficial during practices for helping challenge guys at the wing positions.

“One of the reasons we recruited him was because he had one of the highest free-throw rates in the country,” Holtmann said.

* After Washington struggled in Ohio State’s exhibition win against Cedarville, Holtmann said the two had a significant talk to help him move past it.

“He had one of the worst exhibition performances of all time and was just frustrated,” the coach said. “He didn’t play well in the scrimmage at Louisville, either. That’s not always the players’ fault, coaches, we’ve got to figure out how to get to him better. It came to his breaking point almost and had an emotional response. We talked about it as well as some of our staff afterwards.

“Duane’s a tremendous kid and really talented. Can be a little stubborn. That might not be the only time he struggles but we’re so glad we have him. Love coaching him. He’s really responded and gotten off to a great start.”

* With a 9:30 p.m. start Wednesday night against North Carolina and then a noon tip Saturday against Penn State at home, Holtmann said the Buckeyes are being “really specific about sleep and nutrition.” The team’s nutritionist will travel with the Buckeyes, Holtmann said, and the team will remain in town after the game to get a night’s sleep before flying home Thursday, a day with no classes.

In discussing the Nittany Lions, Holtmann said, “Bona fide NCAA Tournament team. I think a top-half team in the Big Ten. Older guys. They’ve got some transfers. Really tough. It’s as hard a week as you could have, but I’m excited for us to learn about each other. I don’t think the Big Ten will be any easier than it was last year: Iowa beats Texas Tech over the weekend, what Michigan has done, Maryland thumps Marquette over the weekend.”