Brice Sensabaugh's scoring outburst leads Ohio State players in Kingdom Summer League play
On a court with a former first-round NBA draft pick, a four-year letterwinner at Ohio State and a pair of other current Buckeyes, freshman Brice Sensabaugh took top billing.
In a showdown Kingdom Summer League game Sunday afternoon at Ohio Dominican University, Sensabaugh poured in 50 points while playing against the likes of Trey Burke and Andre Wesson. Feeding off the crowd, the Orlando Lake Highland Prep product showed off a wide arsenal of offensive weapons while going 18-for-27 from the floor.
There was one play in particular that stuck with him.
“Probably the windmill (dunk),” he said with a smile.
There were plenty of options to pick from. Sensabaugh opened the game with a dunk when Ohio State redshirt freshman Kalen Etzler beat freshman Felix Okpara for the opening tip but knocked it right back to Sensabaugh, who was on Okpara’s team, for a wide-open basket to open the scoring just seconds into the game. It set a tone for Sensabaugh, who is listed at roughly 6-6, 230 pounds and used his physical skills to create issues for his opponent.
He threw down dunks. He drew a foul on Wesson as he attempted a 3-pointer, and later converted a four-point play. With the crowd keying on each possession, Sensabaugh hit the 50-point mark when he missed an acrobatic dunk, got his own rebound and calmly swished his ninth 3-pointer of the night on 17 attempts.
“Really, it’s nothing really to it,” Sensabaugh said of his performance. “I’m just coming out here to have fun and enjoy the city, meet new faces and stuff like that. I played against Kalen, with Felix, so a couple of my teammates. Bruce played before me. Really coming out here and having fun is really what it is.”
His performance drew postgame praise from Burke, a Northland product who went to Michigan and has spent nine seasons in the NBA.
“I had never seen him play but I am impressed,” said Burke, a member of the NBA’s all-rookie team in 2013-14. “Very impressed. The kid’s not scared. Very competitive. Didn’t back down from the challenge. Very athletic. I like his game, man. The sky’s the limit for him. I told him after the game, ‘What I saw tonight, I want to see that this year.’ I’m expecting big things from him.”
It wasn’t all perfect. Sensabaugh was stripped while trying to drive on Burke on one occasion, and on two other possessions Wesson came up with stops or forced the freshman to pass the ball away while being matched up in one-on-one isolation.
“It was fun,” Wesson said of guarding Sensabaugh. “He’s a real good player. I’m excited to see what he does this season for sure. Just trying to take on that challenge. You win some, you lose some, but it was definitely fun for sure.”
On this night, Sensabaugh won more than he lost. It’s not far off from what his Ohio State teammates said they’ve seen from him so far in summer workouts.
“He does that,” Etzler said. “That’s why they recruited him and why he’s going to be a big piece. He’s going to be like Malaki (Branham), coming in as a freshman and getting a bunch of minutes and he’s gonna ball out. That’s just who he is. He’s a guard playing at 235, so it’s hard to bump him, and you can see he can dunk, he can shoot, he can do everything.”
Ohio State teammates Kalen Etzler, Felix Okpara battle each other
Etzler, who redshirted in order to add strength last season, said he’s weighing in at 190 pounds and looked noticeably stronger. He finished with 12 points and nine rebounds while accepting a secondary role to Burke.
“Obviously when Trey comes in here he’s gonna want to get his shots up so I just try to do the little things,” Etzler said. “You saw me try to offensive rebound and run the floor, just little things like that. Get put-backs, open shots. it’s fun. It’s teaching me how to do different things without the ball in my hand and it’s getting me prepared for college.”
He also threw down a powerful, one-handed dunk that got the crowd roaring.
“I’ve got a little hop to me,” he said. “It’s that weight room work, I think.”
Okpara, in his league debut, showcased his natural leaping ability and 7-foot frame by blocking at least six shots.
“I know I have the defensive impact,” he said. “That’s always been a part of my game since I started playing basketball, so right now my defensive impact is going to come every day on the court. Right now I’m trying to focus on the offensive side and make my team better by me scoring offensively.”
Frequently matched up with Etzler, Okpara was just 1 for 7 from the floor.
“It was fun,” Okpara said. “We were having fun out there. My shot wouldn’t fall in, but it’s all right. It was my first time out here and I think next time I’m going to show out a little bit.”
Bruce Thornton, Devin Royal battle against Ron Lewis
A current Buckeye went head-to-head with a program legend with some help from a potential future teammate.
In a 112-90 win, Ohio State freshman Bruce Thornton and prized 2023 prospect Devin Royal from Pickerington Central teamed up in a battle against Ron Lewis. A Brookhaven product who is now the head coach at Worthington Kilbourne, Lewis led the trio with 23 points while consistently getting to the free-throw line and going 13 for 14.
Lewis said he was impressed by with what both Thornton and Royal have to offer.
“A lot of potential, man,” he said. “A lot of greatness at Pick Central. A lot of greatness at Ohio State. They’re gonna do big things. I wish them nothing but the best.”
Royal, a rare prep player participating in the league, came out firing and hit a pair of quick buckets to open the scoring. Moments later, Lewis blocked his attempted drive to the basket, but it didn’t deter Royal for long. He would finish with 19 points while going 8-for-13 from the floor and 3-for-6 from 3-point range while showing a mid-range game and a powerful, one-handed slam that was followed by a Thornton transition 3 one possession later.
Asked what he was most proud of with his performance, Royal said, “Just my shot, how I’m improving in it. I’m shooting more and more confident in it because I’m going to have to do that a lot this season.”
The 247Sports.com composite database ranks Royal as a four-star prospect and the No. 77 national player. On3.com ranks him No. 26 nationally. He recently participated in Ohio State's team camp.
Thornton, a four-star prospect in the 2022 class, finished with 22 points while often using his frame and physicality to get to the rim. A point guard, Thornton settled in as the game progressed, scoring or assisting on three straight possessions. Thornton pushed the break and fed former Ohio State forward J.D. Weatherspoon for a slam dunk, then missed a step-back 3-pointer but followed it with a drive from the wing that finished with a jump-stop in traffic and layup.
He then hit a 3-pointer on the next possession only to follow it with a heat-check 3 that found only air.
“This is a great situation,” Thornton said of playing in the league. “One of my big mentors, TD (Terence Dials), put me in here and told me to play. I really appreciate playing in this league. It’s a big experience for me and I can get better every day playing this summer.
“It’s always good to go up and down, have fun, get ready for the season. We have a big season ahead of us. A lot of new players. (Playing here helps) me getting my feet wet, getting under control, getting my team together so we can win big games down the line.”
Royal just wrapped up an official visit to Ohio State prior to playing in the league.
“I love playing with Devin,” Thornton said. “Great wing. High motor. I love playing with him. I feel like if he commits to Ohio State, he’s going to be a great asset to us and he’ll be a pro one day.”
“We’ve got a great chemistry,” Royal said. “We’re cool and everything.”
Ohio State center Zed Key working to expand his game
The style of play at the Kingdom Summer League doesn’t typically lend itself well to big men. Sunday, center Zed Key showed signs of bringing a more well-rounded game to his third season at Ohio State.
Key scored 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting but attempted two 3-pointers, missing both, while also showing a willingness to shoot mid-range jumpers in addition to his standard post work.
“Just working on my craft,” Key said. “Obviously my jumper wasn’t falling today, but it’s good. I work on that every day. Jump shots, 3s, mid-range. Just trying to expand my game. That’s definitely been a big point of emphasis.”
Key showed off a slimmer frame that he said has been a point of emphasis in the offseason. He also shook off a left foot injury that occurred after a hard drive to the basket by Pickerington North product Jerome Hunter that sent the two sprawling.
“He’s always been a very strong player in the post,” Hunter said of Key. “He’s always got to his spots and knows where his spots are. Playing against him, him going to Ohio State is just a competition piece that I love to match up against.”
Key still used that physicality to finish around the rim, throwing down a two-handed slam, converting a left-handed hook shot in the paint and also finishing a transition feed from Jarron Cumberland for a powerful dunk.
The current Buckeye also shared court time with Jared Sullinger, who slowly imposed himself on the game and finished with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. They faced former Ohio State guard Keyshawn Woods, who also scored 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting while going 2 for 3 from 3-point range.