Jimmy Sotos ready to take on immediate role for Ohio State men's basketball team
Everything had changed, and the tone of voice directed his way made it feel real for Jimmy Sotos.
The Bucknell transfer guard had committed to Ohio State during the spring with an eye on sitting out the 2020-21 season, learning the system and taking the reins as a fifth-year senior the following year. Instead, Sotos wound up applying for a waiver for immediate eligibility, receiving an approval upon his second attempt and suddenly being elevated from scout-team leader to first-team member.
After his first practice in his new role, Sotos returned to the apartment he shares with his older brother, Christian, and told him of the biggest change he had noticed.
“I told him, ‘The coaches talk a little bit differently to me now. They’re a little more engaged in making sure I’m not tiptoeing into this,’ ” Sotos told The Dispatch. “It felt like a different energy there, like a new purpose kind of arose.”
The change in tone makes sense. Initially, Sotos was content to enjoy a pressure-free year focused on development and pushing CJ Walker in practice on a daily basis. Now, he’s one of three available guards on the roster and will slot into a backcourt rotation that includes Walker, a fifth-year senior, and junior Duane Washington Jr.
While he’s penciled in as the primary backup for both guard positions, Sotos said he doesn’t look at the situation that way.
“I’m excited and ready to embrace that role,” he said. “I’m not thinking of it as a backup role, I’m thinking of it more as I’m coming in and adding a new element to the team.”
Last season, Sotos started all 34 games for a Bison team that finished 14-20, and he led the team in scoring (11.8 points) and assists (3.9) per game. He’s a career 35.5% three-point shooter and has a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio in 100 appearances during the past three years.
Those numbers will likely take a hit as he adjusts to a higher level of competition, and coach Chris Holtmann said Sotos will have to use his size (6 feet 3, 200 pounds), ball skills and understanding of the game to overcome that.
“There’s going to be a learning curve this year given the change in systems and the change in level of play, so I think we’ve got to understand that, but there’s no question he’s going to play for this group,” Holtmann said. “He’ll be in our rotation and I think he’ll help this team.”
Ohio State’s season-opening game Wednesday against Illinois State will mark nearly three weeks since Sotos’ waiver was approved after an initial request was declined. The process had Sotos in limbo for a couple of weeks, and although he declined to discuss specifics on what new information was presented with the second waiver, Sotos said he was relieved to get the green light.
“Honestly, it was a little difficult not knowing what direction I was going to go in for the rest of this year,” he said. “Also, given what I had to go through to get that waiver. I had to revisit some experiences, I guess. I’m not going to get too much into what went on in me getting that waiver, but it was definitely weird.”
The waiver also helps give Sotos what is in essence a free year. All winter sport athletes have been given an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA, meaning that Sotos can play this season and return next year as a graduate as well.
That’s a bit further down the road, but it is something Sotos said he’s put some thought into.
“Oh, yeah, for sure I’m planning on coming back for my grad year,” he said. “This year is icing on the cake for me, really. I get to play with some guys that I wouldn’t get a chance to play with next year. It’s a new opportunity.”
The focus now is on this season and the extra opportunity at hand.