Ohio State men's basketball power rankings: No. 11 Jimmy Sotos
With the promise of fans in the stands and a return to normalcy, Ohio State will open the 2021-22 season with an exhibition game against Indianapolis on November 1. Eight days later, Akron will come to Value City for the first official game, a visit that canceled last year when COVID-19 delayed the start of the season.
The Buckeyes will bring a 15-man roster to their sideline this season, one with unprecedented experience that features two players in their sixth years of college basketball and four others in their fifth. Third-year forward E.J. Liddell is the first Ohio State player to return after being named first-team all-Big Ten since Aaron Craft did so in 2013-14, and his decision to return after exploring his NBA draft stock has the Buckeyes opening the season picked to finish fourth in a joint media preseason poll conducted by The Dispatch and The Athletic.
With all of that in mind, The Dispatch is counting down to the start of the season with our annual power rankings. These rankings are an educated guess at which players will have the most significant on-court impact during the course of the entire season and will feature each player on the roster.
The rankings continue today with Jimmy Sotos.
No. 11 – Jimmy Sotos
Class: Graduate (fifth year)
Height/weight: 6 feet 3 / 200 pounds
Jersey number: 1
Major: Sport management
Sotos did not have a recruiting profile in the 247Sports.com database out of Elk Grove Village (Illinois) Conant, where he enrolled as a 5-2 freshman and graduated after growing to 6-3. He had zero scholarship offers entering his final AAU season and ultimately entertained interest from the Ivy and Patriot leagues before committing to Bucknell. There, he played in 100 career games during three seasons and averaged 8.1 points, 3.9 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 28.2 minutes per game. He had 77 career starts at Bucknell and started all but one game during his last two seasons.
When he decided to transfer for his final season of college basketball, he sought a program where he could play high-level basketball and make a March Madness run. He picked the Buckeyes after Gonzaga, Minnesota, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Xavier, among others, had expressed interest.
Need to know
The Ohio State player with the biggest social media following, Sotos has nearly 667,000 followers on TikTok and 69,000 followers on Instagram. Some of his TikTok clips have more than eight million views, and that has helped him work to profit from his name, image and likeness rights while he primarily focuses on basketball.
“I’ve been playing basketball my whole life and social media will never get in the way of that,” he said. “I’m trying to win a championship here. I want to leave a legacy. I want this team to be really special, and nothing’s going to get in the way of that.”
At Bucknell, Sotos was teammates with Walter Ellis, son of former NBA player LaPhonso and one person who helped sell Ohio State to him. As a freshman, Sotos played 24 minutes and had five points as No. 14 seed Bucknell pushed No. 3 seed Michigan State to the wire in an 82-78 Spartans win during the first round of the NCAA Tournament. As a sophomore, he played 35 minutes and had 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and just one turnover as the Bison nearly pulled off an upset at Ohio State. The Buckeyes prevailed, 73-71. His father is a lawyer, one brother is studying law and another is a former lawyer.
Asked to name a player who impressed him during the offseason, third-year forward E.J. Liddell cited Sotos.
“He’s really improving on himself,” Liddell said. “I’m seeing back in the Bucknell days when he had that confidence, just letting it fly when he’s open.”
Sotos experienced the full gamut of emotions during his first year with the program. Initially, the plan was for Sotos to redshirt, learn the system and be ready to make a significant impact for the 2021-22 season, his last year of college basketball. That changed during the preseason when Utah State graduate transfer Abel Porter was ruled out due to a heart condition discovered when he collapsed at a team workout. Ohio State then applied for a waiver for immediate eligibility for Sotos, had it denied and then had its appeal ultimately approved in late November.
Suddenly elevated from scout-team member to contributor, Sotos saw sporadic early playing time before being handed a massive opportunity when fifth-year senior point guard CJ Walker went down with torn ligaments in his right hand. In the first game without Walker, Sotos started in a game at Rutgers on January 9 and was putting the finishing touches on his most impactful performance of the season when he had the ball knocked away at midcourt during the final moments of the game.
Sotos dove for the ball, arms outstretched, and when he landed his momentum and weight separated his right shoulder. It marked a bitter, abrupt end to Sotos’ season, and he would eventually undergo surgery that sidelined him for six months. He finished the year averaging 1.7 points and 1.1 assists while appearing in 12 games. His six points, four assists and two rebounds in the win against the Scarlet Knights were all season-high totals for Sotos.
With a wide-open backcourt, Sotos has every opportunity in front of him to seize a significant role for the Buckeyes. During his final season at Bucknell, Sotos was the only player to start all 34 games and averaged 11.5 points, 3.9 assists and 1.6 steals – all team-high totals.
“He’s full-go right now and he’s one of those guards competing,” coach Chris Holtmann said.
Through two weeks of practice, it’s hard to tell exactly where he stands in the pecking order. Following Thursday’s practice, some of which was open to the media, Holtmann declined to give specifics on roles for any players while citing the length of time still remaining during the preseason. That included a specific question about Sotos, who can play either guard position.
Asked what he brings to the battle that separates him from his teammates, Sotos said, “Probably my ability to pass the ball and be a floor general in a sense. My ability to shoot the ball, but we all specialize in different things and we all bring something different to the table. I think we all play off of each other really well.”
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Previous power rankings
No. 12 – Gene Brown III
No. 13 – Seth Towns
No. 14 – Harrison Hookfin
No. 15 – Kalen Etzler