What did Kyle Young tell his Ohio State teammates before leaving for summer break?
For a bunch of guys who have played a lot of college basketball, the 2021-22 Ohio State University men’s basketball team doesn’t boast the highest level of continuity. An offseason with NBA decisions, transfers, injuries and tryouts with Team USA each have placed a premium on the time the Buckeyes will share once they return to campus.
That will come later this month. Right now, Ohio State’s players are scattered, spending time with their families and enjoying some down time. But before they left, fifth-year player Kyle Young had a message for his teammates.
“Kyle Young specifically, right before we broke off, said, ‘Make sure you all don’t B.S. this August because it’s really important, and it’s going to show if you weren’t working when you went back home,” third-year forward E.J. Liddell told The Dispatch.
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That universal sentiment can mean different things to different players. For first-year forward Kalen Etzler, it means trying to put on some weight and building strength while entering a redshirt season. Classmate Malaki Branham said he’s working on his consistency, getting more accustomed to being a full-time guard after playing multiple spots at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. Second-year guard Gene Brown, a Georgia native, will stay in Columbus and work on rebuilding his fitness after being sidelined by COVID in April.
Everyone spoke of continuing their conditioning and workouts. All of those efforts will be vital for the Buckeyes to find success this season.
“When you go home, make sure you’re still working out at a high level,” Etzler said he was told. “You can’t come back and take two steps back from where you were.”
Coach Chris Holtmann called it an “interesting summer” for the program when he met with reporters in late July. Of the 14 scholarship players on this year’s roster, half are in at least their fifth year of college basketball. Of those seven, though, Young is the only one to have spent his entire career with the Buckeyes. Three of them – Joey Brunk, Cedric Russell and Jamari Wheeler – are in their first seasons with the program, adding to the program’s overall experience level but not to its continuity.
“We didn’t really know what our team was gonna look like for the bulk of the summer,” Holtmann said. “I think it’s going to make a real priority for us to have a good fall.”
Much of that uncertainty came from waiting on decisions from Liddell and Duane Washington Jr. – last year’s two leading scorers – about their plans. Washington has since signed a two-way NBA deal with Indiana, while Liddell said he spent the summer “focusing on me, focusing on my body, eating right, working on my sleep schedule, going to bed at 11 o’clock every night and just being a better all-around person, really. Off the court I have to take care of myself by eating better and that’s going to translate on the court.
“I feel a lot better than I did last year. Just have to keep doing that and working on my ball-handling and shooting.”
According to BartTorvik.com, Ohio State’s projected effective experience ranking is second-highest among power conference teams behind only Texas. And yet, the Buckeyes return 63.3% of their minutes from last year, 180th-most in the nation.
So there is clearly potential. It just has to figure out how to fit together.
“We can’t take August off,” Liddell said. “Going into preseason, we all have to be in the best shape as possible. When everybody comes together as one, I really can’t wait because we’re deep. Really, really deep. It’s gonna be really competitive and I feel like everybody’s waiting to play so everybody’s challenging the next person.”