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Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann calls Kaleb Wesson best-shooting big in NBA draft

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State Buckeyes forward Kaleb Wesson (34) is guarded by UMass Lowell River Hawks guard Obadiah Noel (11) and guard Josh Gantz (12) during the first half of Sunday's NCAA basketball game at Value City Arena in Columbus on November 10, 2019. Ohio State won the game 76-56. [Barbara J. Perenic/Dispatch]

It wasn’t even a direct question that led Chris Holtmann to start publicly stumping for his former player.

Friday afternoon, the Ohio State men’s basketball coach was a little past the midpoint of a 30-minute video chat with reporters when he was asked about his team’s ability to shoot from three-point range. As Holtmann began to answer, he singled out his team’s two leading shooters from a season ago, both of whom are no longer with the program.

Then he began a campaign for NBA draft prospect Kaleb Wesson, who led the Buckeyes at 42.5% as a junior and is now fighting to hear his name called in this year’s draft.

More:Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson navigating life changes in pursuit of NBA draft spot

“Listen, Kaleb Wesson is the best-shooting big in the NBA draft right now,” Holtmann said. “He is the best-shooting big in the NBA draft. A hundred six threes (attempted) last year, he took 14 as a freshman. He took 106 threes last year at 43%. He’s the best-shooting big in the NBA draft, so that is something.”

The numbers bear Holtmann out. The question is if it will be enough to earn Wesson an NBA roster spot.

The most recent NBA draft big board produced by Sam Vecenie at The Athletic has Wesson as the No. 70 overall prospect, falling just outside of the second round of the draft. Wesson is labeled as a true center, with nine listed ahead of him as well as five forward/center prospects.

None of them shot from three-point range better than Wesson, who finished No. 65 nationally in three-point percentage according to KenPom.com. It was a jump from his sophomore year, where Wesson went 26 for 75 (34.7%) while assuming the role of offensive focal point for the Buckeyes.

As a junior, he dropped significant weight and brought a more versatile game to the Buckeyes. Since declaring for the draft, Wesson has been primarily working out in Houston and is now measuring 6-10½ and 250 pounds.

He was selected as one of 61 players invited to the NBA’s virtual draft combine. After his sophomore year, Wesson tested the NBA process and earned workouts for both Boston and Atlanta. This year, he has had interviews with 15 NBA teams.

“I think it hurt a little bit the fact that he’s not been able to get in front and people have not been able to physically see how big and long he is,” Holtmann said. “It’s one of the things last year the guys at Boston, the first thing they said to me after his workout, was, ‘He’s bigger than what we thought (and) longer than what we thought.’ ”

There are clear questions about his overall attributes and how they translate to the NBA. His official profile page on the league’s draft website describes him as “among the more improved big men … from a physical perspective” but notes he’s not the “bounciest” player or “most athletic defender.”

It does agree with Holtmann’s assessment, though, that he can shoot the ball.

“When I look at some of his comparables in the NBA draft, I think he’s got the best touch of any big guy,” Holtmann said. “We certainly talked to a number of teams and I know he’s had a number of interviews with teams and I’ve shared the same thing I shared with you.”

The draft will take place Nov. 18.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy