Dorka Juhasz returning from COVID-19 protocol, motivated to win Big Ten

Jacob Myers
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State forward Dorka Juhasz (14) recorded double-doubles in three of the Buckeyes' first four games this season before missing three games after testing positive for COVID-19.

Dorka Juhasz was frustrated.

Isolated after testing positive for COVID-19, the junior forward on the Ohio State women's basketball team was thankful to have no symptoms and more time to talk to her family. But all the reading and yoga she did in her apartment couldn’t fill the void created by the absence of basketball and the news of a one-year postseason ban for the Buckeyes.

Women's basketball: Atypical offseason led Ohio State's Dorka Juhasz to expand her game

Juhasz had high expectations and goals of reaching the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in her third year with the Ohio State program.

As the last OSU player to clear protocol, Juhasz has recovered from her mild bout with the coronavirus to focus her energy on winning a regular-season Big Ten championship ahead of Thursday’s important game against No. 11 Michigan at Value City Arena.

“It was definitely mentally challenging and I really missed the game,” said Juhasz, a native of Hungary. “That was my first Christmas without my family so it was very challenging. I'm glad it's over and hopefully nothing is going to happen the rest of the season. We can keep playing and keep getting better. It was tough.” 

The 6-foot-4 Juhasz is one of the best interior players in the Big Ten and has the ability to stretch defenses with her outside shooting. After earning first-team all-Big Ten honors a season ago, Juhasz entered this season on the national player of the year watch list and averaged 17.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in her first four games.

On Saturday at Nebraska, she played for the first time since Dec. 10 and led the Buckeyes with 13 points and 12 rebounds in 27 minutes. But she shot only 5 of 17 from the field in the 63-55 loss. Juhasz said she could feel how much fitness she had lost.

Dorka Juhasz (14) will need to make an impact inside if Ohio State is to have success in its next two Big Ten games, against unbeaten Michigan and Maryland.

“I made many mistakes because my legs — how I was out of shape,” Juhasz said. “I think it got so much better and I'm trying to do extra conditioning. I'm glad I'm healthy. I feel great. I have appetite, I have everything, so I think it's going to be fine.” 

Coming off its first loss of the season, the No. 17 Buckeyes (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) are getting Juhasz back at the right time. Against the Wolverines (10-0, 5-0) and conference player of the year candidate Naz Hillmon, Juhasz will need to have an impact on the glass if Ohio State is to stay near the top of the Big Ten. 

Even if she isn’t ready to play 30-plus minutes, Juhasz gives the Buckeyes more than just another scorer and rebounder.

"She's a very bright player,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “She knows how to play and she tends to make other people around her better because she knows how to execute within the offense and either get a shot for herself or somebody else.” 

The ceiling for this Ohio State team has adjusted since the athletic department imposed a one-year postseason ban on the program at the recommendation of the NCAA for impermissible benefits given to players by a former assistant coach. Juhasz said the team talked it out and has found another purpose in winning the conference title. 

“We don't want to opt-out," Juhasz said. "We just want to play basketball because that's why we're here.” 

The Buckeyes face a pivotal homestand with games against Michigan and No. 7 Maryland — the top two teams in the Big Ten. To reach their potential, Ohio State needs its top player to be at the top of her game, which she knows won’t happen overnight. 

“I'm not going to be the same Dorka that played the last game,” she said. “I have to work a lot, extra work that I have to put in.”

jmyers@dispatch.com

@_jcmyers

Michigan at Ohio State

Radio: WBNS-AM (1460)