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Coronavirus upends Chris Holtmann's day; are there more disruptions ahead?

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
An eventful Tuesday for Ohio State men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann included a morning positive test for COVID-19, a follow-up test that confirmed he did not have the virus and an afternoon scrimmage.

There is no official first game yet on the schedule for an Ohio State men’s basketball season that can start as soon as Nov. 25.

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to make its presence felt on college basketball and other sports and the Buckeyes looking for a new three-team event to replace the Crossover Classic they withdrew from late last week, coach Chris Holtmann told reporters Wednesday that his team is doing what it can to prepare for the looming unknown that is the 2020-21 season.

That included holding an intrasquad scrimmage on Tuesday that Holtmann missed part of while awaiting a second COVID-19 test after the daily rapid test he took in the morning returned a possible positive. That result was negated within six hours, however, by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that showed Holtmann did not have the virus.

“It’s life as we know it,” Holtmann said.

The day was a glimpse of some normalcy if another reminder that nothing is normal this season.

“It was our first time seeing officials here basically since March,” Holtmann said. “It was good to get back out there.”

Two players remain unable to participate, Holtmann said. Harvard graduate transfer Seth Towns and redshirt junior Musa Jallow are still being withheld from live action but are participating in some limited-contact drill work as they return from knee and ankle injuries, respectively. There is no specific timeline for either player to return to full action.

“I could speculate that Musa will be closer to returning than Seth,” Holtmann said. “I think the timeline on Seth, he’s at least a month away from getting into live action in terms of practice stuff.”

Everybody else is in good health and “in a good place physically,” Holtmann said, as they look ahead to a Saturday game-day simulation that will include a walk-through, pre-game meal and officials.

The NCAA has capped the number of allowed games at 27 this season. Doing so requires participation in a three-game, multi-team event, and it sounds like the Buckeyes could be trying to put together one of their own.

“I’m putting a 27-game schedule together,” Holtmann said. “I don’t think we’re going to play 27 games (because of the pandemic), but I’m putting a 27-game schedule together.”

Wednesday also marked the beginning of the early signing period for the 2021 recruiting class, but Holtmann wasn’t able to discuss any of Ohio State’s commitments because they had not officially signed at the time of his news conference.

Kalen Etzler, a forward from Convoy Crestview in northwest Ohio, was set to hold a 6 p.m. news conference in his high school gym. Malaki Branham, a guard from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, will sign on Friday, his uncle, Lawrence, told The Dispatch.

Until last Sunday, the class had three members before Garfield Heights guard Meechie Johnson Jr. announced his decision to graduate early, reclassify to the 2020 class and join the Buckeyes in December. With his move, Johnson is now listed as a four-star prospect, the No. 3 player from Ohio, the No. 23 point guard in his class and the nation’s No. 116 overall recruit according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings.

“In his situation, he is physically really, really healthy right now,” Holtmann said of Johnson. “He hasn’t played competitive, organized games with the exception of AAU for a while. We’re going to keep in mind his health. There was long-term thinking in mind (in his case).”

The two-man class of 2021 is now ranked No. 38 nationally and the 2020 class, which besides Johnson also includes forward Zed Key Jr. and wing Gene Brown III, ranks No. 45, according to 247Sports.

“I’m really excited about this class,” Holtmann said. “We’ve got some guys I’m really confident can step in and help us. We’ve got some perimeter needs we needed to address, so we’re really excited about it. Friday we’ll have all those (signatures) in.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy