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What did Ohio State's Chris Holtmann, Kevin McGuff say at Big Ten media day?

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch

MINNEAPOLIS – There is a sentiment going around that participants in this year’s Big Ten media day aren’t particularly pleased by the location.

For the first time, the league’s coaches and players have ascended on the Target Center, which will host the women’s tournament this season and the men’s in 2024. The event has primarily rotated between Chicago and Indianapolis, two cities essentially centrally located for the majority of a conference that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean past the Mississippi River. And while there have been reports that some coaches haven’t been thrilled about traveling to Minneapolis, Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann had some fun with the notion when he addressed reporters Wednesday morning.

“Appreciate the city of Minneapolis hosting Big Ten media day,” he said. “I know there's some reports of coaches complaining about it being up here, but suffice it to say I wouldn't take it personal. We're coaches. We'd complain if it was in our back yards.”

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Here's a rundown of the televised portions of media day featuring Holtmann and women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff.

Justice Sueing full-go despite sprained ankle

He’s back from a groin injury that cost him all but two games last season, but sixth-year forward Justice Sueing has missed a few days of practice this preseason with a minor injury.

“He's had no limitations right now,” Holtmann said. “He did tweak his ankle and that limited his practice last week. He was out probably for three or four days with just an ankle sprain. Outside of that he's really been full go.

“You're starting to see some things. I think there will be a little bit of rust once we get to games as well. But he's in great shape. He's really worked hard.”

The men’s team is represented by Zed Key, Isaac Likekele and Sueing, and Holtmann was asked about bringing Likekele, who is yet to play a game for the program after transferring in from Oklahoma State.

“He has a tremendous personality, really charismatic personality,” Holtmann said. “I think he's a young man that, as you'll get to know, just has a tremendous charisma and leadership ability. Obviously will play some point guard position for us. “I expect all three of the young men here to play an important leadership role as well as Gene Brown this year.”

Key and Brown are the only two players returning who played more than two games for the Buckeyes last season.

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“We are well at work here in our program at finding our identity as a group, like so many teams in college basketball and like several teams in the Big Ten,” Holtmann said. “We have a lot of new faces this year. I think that's exciting on one hand. It's also challenging on the other hand.

“We really are excited about so many of the new faces as well as some of the returning faces that we have within our program. We have four returning players with the addition of Justice Sueing, who is now healthy as a returner. Zed Key, Gene Brown, Kalen Etzler, and then we have eight new players.”

With all that, there’s a learning curve for this year’s team and Holtmann has said throughout the preseason that there are things they won’t know about this team until they actually play games.

“The Bahamas helped us learn some things about our group,” he said. “(Learning) who could compete in a really physical game that we had against some of those older teams that we played over there, that was helpful. I think we are seeing that on a regular basis. There's a physical element now to how we're playing, how we're trying to play. You get an idea maybe who's ready for that.”

In the backcourt, Holtmann said the development of freshmen Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle will be critical to this team’s success.

“I think that will be as key as anything to our season this year, is not just the development of our four freshmen but the development of those two young guards and the growth that they take,” he said. “I don't think there's any question that the development of really all four of our freshmen that are going to play is going to be critical to this team.”

He stopped short of comparing him to one of last season’s freshmen: guard Malaki Branham, a first-round NBA draft pick.

“That's a hard ask to put on guys,” he said. “I think they have to run their own race. But we certainly are going to need important play from those two guys as well as all four of our freshmen this year.”

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren: Ohio State women had “outstanding” season last year

Before McGuff took to the podium for his session, Warren had some praise for the job the Buckeyes did last season in grabbing a share of the Big Ten title.

“Coach had an outstanding season last year, grabbing a share of the Big Ten title,” the commissioner said while introducing McGuff. “He has another exciting team coming back this year. We're looking forward to see his team play.”

The women’s team is represented at media day by Taylor Mikesell and Jacy Sheldon, “two of our upperclassmen who are First Team All-Big Ten preseason and are coming off great seasons,” McGuff said. “They're going to be the core of our leadership group in leading us in what I think could be an excellent season.”

McGuff took a question about attendance, where a reporter asked about Ohio State finishing among the nation’s top 30 in home attendance last season.

“We've got certainly passionate fans in Columbus who really support our program and all the Ohio State programs,” he said. “We really struggled coming out of COVID initially because we've been historically among the top 10 usually in the country in attendance.

“I think we'll be much more in that range this year. We've really ramped up our marketing efforts. I think people feel much more comfortable getting out. Our fan base feels much more comfortable coming to the games now.”

The Buckeyes were without Madison Greene last season due to injury, but McGuff said she’s working her way back into the rotation.

“Yeah, she's practicing,” he said. “She's full-go every day. She was incredibly diligent and worked very hard with her rehab, so she's back. She looks very good. We did have great chemistry and a great backcourt last year. It's a great opportunity to infuse Madison back in and get them playing together. I think we'll only get better because of it.”

Without Greene, McGuff said the success of last season shows why the future looks bright for the Buckeyes.

“That, I think, speaks to the leadership and resilience of our upperclassmen from last year's team,” he said. “That gives me great optimism for this year, is we've got some of the same kids with the high character that they have. It is nice to really just be focused on our season and what the possibilities could be. Just a lot less of the distractions we had for a couple years there.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

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