CJ Walker out, Jimmy Sotos in question as Ohio State prepares to host Northwestern
The No. 21 Ohio State men's basketball team is preparing to host Northwestern without possibly two of its primary point guard options.
On Tuesday, coach Chris Holtmann confirmed that fifth-year senior CJ Walker will miss his second straight game with torn ligaments in his right hand. His status going forward is unknown, as is that of Walker’s replacement, Jimmy Sotos, who suffered a right shoulder injury with roughly four minutes to play in Saturday’s 79-68 win at No. 15 Rutgers.
“Jimmy continues to be evaluated,” Holtmann said. “No definitive word right now on him, but CJ will be out again.”
The status of Sotos and Walker, who have played a combined 222 Division I games, could mean a larger role for early high school graduate Meechie Johnson Jr. After reclassifying to the 2020 recruiting class, graduating early from Garfield Heights and joining the Buckeyes in mid-December, Johnson just began practicing last week leading into the Rutgers game.
He made his debut against the Scarlet Knights and played four minutes without otherwise recording a statistic.
“You’re looking at all options at this point,” Holtmann said. “I’ve got confidence in Meechie. It’s a lot to ask a young man who just joined your program to step in and play a Big Ten game of this caliber, but we do expect him to play for sure.”
With the Buckeyes leading 67-55 on Saturday, Sotos had the ball poked away in the backcourt, and in an attempt to retrieve the ball made a full-extension dive and landed on his shoulder with his right arm outstretched. He immediately rolled over in pain and, after play was stopped, was helped to his feet and went directly to the locker room with the help of the team’s training staff.
After the game, Sotos met with Holtmann on the court and spoke with him for a moment with a towel covering his head and the coach repeatedly patting him on the back. In his postgame news conference, Holtmann didn’t share much of an update on Sotos’ status other than to say he would be evaluated and that the team would know more “in a few days.”
On Sunday, Sotos posted a photo to his Instagram page of himself wearing a hospital gown. Monday, Holtmann said Sotos was still being evaluated and described him then as a “game-time decision” for the Northwestern game.
His injury-shortened appearance against the Scarlet Knights was Sotos’ most impactful game of the season. He played a season-high 28 minutes, twice as much as any game this season, and scored a season-high six points with four assists and just one turnover.
He’s the third Ohio State point guard to go down at some point this year. In addition to Walker’s hand injury, Utah State graduate transfer Abel Porter’s career came to an end when he was diagnosed with a heart disorder during preseason workouts.
Ohio State men's basketball:Abel Porter will not play for Ohio State due to medical condition
Holtmann said the Buckeyes have been given multiple timelines for when Walker, who led the team in minutes played at the time of the injury, could potentially return this season.
“I don’t think he’ll come back until he feels comfortable that it’s healthy enough to, and I completely understand that,” Holtmann said. “But he’s anxious to come back. He knows we need him.”
If Sotos can’t go, expect junior Duane Washington Jr. to handle more responsibilities at the point and for the likes of Cal transfer Justice Sueing and juniors Justin Ahrens and Musa Jallow to also factor more into the backcourt mix.
Northwestern at Ohio State
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)