Waterman already honing her coaching skills as OSU player

Jeff Thitoff The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State forward Makayla Waterman (24) defends Illinois forward Alex Wittinger during the Buckeyes' 78-70 victory on Thursday. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

Basketball coaches love having a coach on the floor, a player he or she can count on to be a leader, execute the game plan and serve as a calming influence during the peaks and valleys of a game.

Senior Makayla Waterman fits the description for Ohio State — and now she is interested in being a coach off the floor, as well.

Waterman recently learned that she was accepted into the “So You want To Be A Coach” program, a joint effort of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and WeCOACH. Waterman will travel to the Women’s Final Four in Tampa, Florida, to participate in a workshop from April 3-5 for aspiring future coaches.

Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra

Being in OSU coach Kevin McGuff’s system longer than anyone else on the team gives the 6-foot-2 forward from Kettering a different perspective and the ability to serve as a mentor for the younger players on the squad.

“I like to be a leader, I’m a vocal person,” Waterman said. “I’ve think I’ve showed from the beginning of the season that I will help anyone that needs help.”

Waterman will lead Ohio State (9-10, 5-5) into Evanston, Illinois, on Sunday to take on Northwestern (13-8, 6-4). The Buckeyes have won their past two games, and Waterman led Ohio State over Illinois 78-70 on Thursday.

She scored a career-high 18 points and added seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and a blocked shot.

McGuff appreciated the full stat sheet, but he said it’s intangibles that make Waterman invaluable.

“She’s very positive and very clear with her communication on the court,” McGuff said. “When we make adjustments and we do something new, she can articulate that to her teammates and that’s been critical for us.”

In the previous four years, the Buckeyes figured that guard Kelsey Mitchell would lead the team in scoring most games and get the bulk of the touches down the stretch in games.

This season, six players have led the team in scoring in a game, including a different player in each of the last three. Ohio State’s leading scorer, 6-foot-4 freshman Dorka Juhasz, has paced the Buckeyes in points just once since the calendar flipped to 2019.

A different hot hand each night makes for a challenge at times for McGuff.

“Sometimes you have to feel your way through that game to game. It’s not as clear-cut as when we had Kelsey, where we are going to run something through her,” McGuff said. “We have to monitor who’s playing well that day and make sure we have the right people in the game and we’re getting shots from the right people.”