Ohio State's Justice Sueing, Seth Towns getting healthier as Bahamas trip approaches
Goals can vary when it comes to foreign exhibition trips for men’s college basketball programs.
In addition to the 10 extra practices that are permissible with the journey that teams are permitted to take once every four years, the opportunity to play different opponents can present a challenge. Do you schedule easily beatable teams to engender confidence in a team, or test them against stiffer competition away from a television audience?
With a trip to the Bahamas and games against Egypt and Puerto Rico’s national teams looming on the horizon, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said he’s in the latter camp.
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“We said, ‘Give us the best teams that you have there,’ ” Holtmann said. “We believe they will both be really good teams and good measures for us as a group. The trip is obviously not about that. It is about the practice time, the chance to play a bunch of different rotations.”
Ohio State men's basketball team is headed to the Bahamas
The Buckeyes will leave on August 4 and head to the Atlantis Bahamas. They will play Egypt on August 6 and Puerto Rico the next day while mixing in practices, meetings and even a catamaran cruise. For a team with eight new scholarship players and two new walk-ons that is replacing two assistant coaches, that time spent together is arguably as necessary as it’s ever been.
Monday marked Ohio State’s second pseudo-scrimmage of the summer: the Buckeyes were set for a 5 p.m. tip against a team comprised of former players in town during the offseason. That outcome, along with the remaining practice days before the trip, will go a long way toward determining who might start against Egypt.
“We’re not in regular-season mode yet,” Holtmann said. “It’s going to be a rotation that’s a little more full than it typically is. We’re going to look at a bunch of different combinations. We hope we can come out of this with a group that’s closer and has some time spent together and some fun and we’re going to learn something about our guys.”
The lineups used in the Bahamas likely won’t resemble those Holtmann will use when the season kicks off against Robert Morris at Value City Arena on Nov. 7, partly because Ohio State won’t leave the country with full roster availability. Veterans Seth Towns (back surgery) and Justice Sueing (groin/abdominal injury) will not participate in the games in the Bahamas but are both practicing on a somewhat limited basis.
Third-year wing Gene Brown III, who has also been dealing with a groin injury this summer, might also be limited for the trip. All three are progressing toward full availability, however.
“(Justice and Seth) won’t be fully cleared,” Holtmann said. “We expect them to be fully cleared by September. I don’t anticipate any issue there. Gene may be on a minutes restriction. Outside of that, we should have everybody pretty much ready to go as long as we stay healthy.”
One of four team captains last season, Sueing missed all but the first two games with a lingering injury from the season before. Towns suffered a back injury that required offseason surgery and did not suit up for the Buckeyes. Both were active for shooting and sprinting drills during a 20-minute Monday practice session open to reporters following Holtmann’s press conference.
“I think he’s been disappointed at times, but he’s as optimistic as he’s ever been because he’s been able to actually practice and do some things,” Holtmann said of Sueing. “Once you get that under your belt, you’re a little more confident. I think he feels really good about where he’s at right now.”
Where he is right now is a roster that bears scant resemblance to the one he was positioned to help lead a season ago. Sueing is finding his way back while most of his teammates are just starting to find their way. Final answers won’t arrive until the lights go on, fans file into the arena and the results count.
There’s a lot to learn between now and then.
“It’s very experimental in a lot of ways,” Holtmann said. “If we had a group that maybe was returning four or five starters or maybe a little bit more experience it might be different. This is going to be very experimental.
“We’re gonna tinker with some things. There’s only so much we can do in two games and 10 practices but we’ll certainly play a variety of lineups.”