After redshirting, stronger Kalen Etzler hoping to show improved shot for Ohio State

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State Buckeyes forward Kalen Etzler (24) brings the ball up court during the second half of the NCAA exhibition basketball game against the Indianapolis Greyhounds at Value City Arena in Columbus on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021.

For one year, Kalen Etzler was putting in the work that no one outside of the Ohio State men’s basketball program could see.

As the Buckeyes were putting together their 2021-22 season, the product of Convoy (Ohio) Crestview was putting in time on himself. After arriving at Ohio State standing 6-8 but weighing around 180 pounds, Etzler and the coaching staff made the decision to use the year to redshirt and work on his body. Given the bloated roster featuring 15 scholarship players, the majority of which had multiple years’ worth of experience, it was a move that made sense.

Now it’s time to see the fruits of the labor. When he takes the court this season as a redshirt freshman, Etzler is aiming to show off a stronger frame and a more developed all-around game for the Buckeyes.

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“I put on about 15 pounds and most of it is willpower strength, mental strength,” he said after playing at the Kingdom Summer League at Ohio Dominican University. “I’m playing at 190 now, so obviously I’m not the biggest dude but I compete as hard as I can.”

Etzler’s frame looks noticeably more muscular than it did a summer ago, and he has shown that in the summer league with multiple powerful dunks. More than that, though, Etzler said he’s been putting in significant work on his outside jumper. That process took off when he returned to the gym after taking four days of rest following Ohio State’s second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Villanova.

It wasn’t just one daily trip to the gym, either.

“As soon as the season ended in March and I had nothing but free time I’d go to the gym 2-3 times a day. I was getting up anywhere from 500-1,000 shots a day and it was daily. I was going Monday through Sunday, all seven days, and I was lifting with Q (strength and conditioning coach Quadrian Banks). I was getting stronger.”

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That work on his jumper involved a lot of shot preparation and focusing on the mechanics of shooting, Etzler said. In case he wasn’t already thinking about it, Etzler said assistant coach Mike Netti was consistently reaching out to him about his shot.

“He texts me: ‘Hey, did you shoot today?’ ” Etzler said. “I’d better have said yes to him. That was always in the back of my mind when I was sitting there doing nothing like, ‘I’ve gotta go to the gym.’

Inside Ohio Dominican’s gym, Etzler twice connected on consecutive 3-pointers during his July 10 game. He finished with 25 points and was 5 for 9 from 3-point range.

Summer success doesn’t guarantee fall impacts. The Kingdom Summer League is just a glimpse of where Etzler’s season could wind up. But when it has come to time spent with his current teammates, Etzler said he’s already seeing improvement after putting in so much work.

“It’s getting those types of reps up that really helped me and it helps me get my shot off in practice a lot quicker,” he said. “I’m comfortable shooting it. It’s the same thing every time.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

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