Stat-stuffer Isaac Likekele aiming to show even more of his game at Ohio State

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch
Oklahoma State's Isaac Likekele (13) celebrates following a 64-51 win against Texas at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater on Jan. 8.

The numbers say there wasn’t much Isaac Likekele didn’t do during his four years at Oklahoma State.

Once labeled a “linebacker at point guard” by ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla, Likekele is the only player in program history to score more than 1,000 points, pull down at least 600 rebounds and dish out more than 400 assists. For good measure, he finished fifth in defensive rebounds (492) and eighth in career steals (160).

Now, after committing to Ohio State for his final season, Likekele thinks there’s still more to show and that coach Chris Holtmann and his staff can help bring it out of him.

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“Not to discredit anything from my past school or nothing, but I feel like this move will be a new challenge for me,” Likekele said. “The challenge of every single day of needing the ball for Coach H and the staff is something I truly see benefiting me and bringing the best out of me as a player because I feel like there’s way more to me to develop as a player. Being able to come in there and rise to the challenge will bring the best out of me.

“I feel like I haven’t even done 60% of what I’ve got.”

Ranked a five-star transfer prospect by EvanMiya.com, the 6-5, 215-pound Likekele gives the Buckeyes an experienced player to pair in the backcourt with top-50 freshman point guard Bruce Thornton as well as a versatile profile who can help in the post.

What his exact role looks like will be determined once he gets to campus and starts working with his new teammates. Given his production to this point, though, the question is simple: what more is there still to show?

“It’s not more for me to show necessarily to anybody,” Likekele said. “It’s more things for me to prove to myself. I know I’ve got some good numbers and different things, but if I ask myself, 'Did I personally like certain things?' No. I don’t let the wins and losses dictate if I gave enough or not, but I just know I have way more to give. I’m looking to give it my all up here at Ohio State.

“To clarify that: I’m not saying I didn’t give Oklahoma State my all. Me saying there’s more to me in my game as a player, I feel like Coach H and them can help me. There’s more about me as a player that I haven’t discovered myself that I feel like they can help me get to learn as a player.”

Ohio State was the only school Likekele visited since entering the transfer portal April 26. Publicly, his recruitment was a quiet one. Privately, he said, schools from every major conference were calling but he wasn’t trying to seek the spotlight while picking his destination.

“I didn’t want to announce five schools and then drop it to four, then three,” he said. “I’m not with that prima donna type of stuff. Not saying anything’s wrong with it, but to me that’s just not my style. I wanted to get straight to the potatoes and handle my business like I knew I had to.”

When Likekele left for his official visit to Ohio State last weekend, he did so telling himself it wouldn’t be his lone visit and that he wouldn’t be making a quick commitment. By the time the trip was over, Likekele knew what he wanted and publicly announced his decision Wednesday.

He credited Holtmann and his now-complete three-man coaching staff – associate head coach Jake Diebler and assistant coaches Jack Owens and Mike Netti – for making him feel confident in his choice.

“They just kept it real with me, honestly, just like I wanted,” he said. “Coach H, man, he’s a straight shooter. He gave me the real. At the same time, Coach O, coach Jake Diebler, coach Netti, really the whole staff, those guys in this short amount of time are trying to get to know people and trust people on a coaching staff. They made me real comfortable, the belief level in me and my belief level in them grew as I was there.”

His only tie to the Buckeyes came in the form of Netti, who prior to joining Holtmann at Ohio State in 2017 had been an assistant at East Carolina. Turns out, Netti was already in Likekele’s phone after having recruited him for the Pirates.

A native of Arlington, Texas, Likekele initially committed to Fresno State after also visiting Stephen F. Austin but de-committed and picked Oklahoma State after interest from Texas Tech and others. This recruitment was obviously quicker, and now he’s looking forward to spending his fifth season with the Buckeyes.

“Even though I did a great job choosing my first time out of high school, I feel like I made another great choice here,” he said. “There ain’t no telling how this team will be, depending on how we work over the summer. I believe we have a great team, but that only takes you so far depending on how hard you work. I just want us to maximize our potential, whatever that is, so at the end of the season we say we gave it our all.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

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