McDonald Could Play His Way into Big Man Rotation
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Trey McDonald wasn’t a star in high school.
He wasn’t a 5-star recruit or a McDonald’s All-American.
Photo by Jim Davidson
He didn’t have offers from every big school in the country before committing to play for Ohio State back in October of 2010. In fact, the Battle Creek, Michigan, native didn’t even have offers from the two biggest schools in his home state.
No, Trey McDonald has had to work hard for everything he’s gotten on the basketball court, and it’s that attitude that has earned him some consideration from OSU head coach Thad Matta this season.
“No question about it,” Matta said Tuesday as the Buckeyes prepare to host Savannah State tonight (7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network).
“I’ve watched the evolution of Trey and the progress he’s made since he got here. There’s no doubt in my mind his best basketball is right around the corner.”
McDonald played a total of 38 minutes as a freshman last season. He grabbed six rebounds and make one of his six attempts from the floor, all numbers he has already eclipsed as a sophomore this season.
The 6-8, 240-pound center played a career-high 14 minutes on Saturday in Ohio State’s 89-55 blowout of visiting Long Beach State. It’s not uncommon for Matta to put McDonald on the floor in the second half of a blowout.
He typically sends him out there with freshman Amedeo Della Valle, but this was different. For the second time in the last four games, Matta subbed McDonald into the game for Amir Williams before halftime.
“I felt during the game, and watching it afterward, he was consumed with doing the right thing,” Matta said.
“Basketball is not a game of perfection for sure, but he understood ‘this is what my team needs me to do and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.’ ”
McDonald scored a career-high four points and grabbed four rebounds, which was the same number Williams and starting center Evan Ravenel combined for in 25 minutes on the court.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Trey is very athletic. He’s very strong. He’s one of the strongest guys we have on the team,” Matta added.
“He had another great practice yesterday and hopefully we can keep bringing him along.”
McDonald has shown enough this season that Matta is considering a more consistent three-man rotation at the center position. He’s going to miss out some shot-blocking ability if and when he takes Amir Williams off the floor, but McDonald can also do some things neither of the other two bring to the table.
“Amir is more of a come over shot blocker. I can be all over the court and get deflections and steals any way I can,” McDonald told The-Ozone.
“Maybe tip a pass or dive on the floor. I just like to run around and have some fun out there on defense.”
That type of effort and tenacity is something the Buckeyes haven’t been able to get out of Williams, who is an intimidating force in the paint, but not always the most sure-handed rebounder under the basket.
He also doesn’t run the floor as well as McDonald, who ran track at Battle Creek Central High School.
“Trey is a physical post player, but he’s also athletic,” said Ravenel, Ohio State’s lone senior who has taken McDonald under his wing this past year.
“He can run the floor like a deer. He can rebound, shoot the J. Both of them shoot out to 18 feet pretty well.”
While the Buckeyes could certainly use a boost from the center spot on the offensive end of the floor, it’s not jump shots that Matta and his staff will be looking for from McDonald, at least not early on. That’s why OSU assistant Chris Jent worked hard with him during the offseason on keeping his game around the basket.
“He wanted me to play a lot closer to the rim and not settle for the jump shot,” McDonald said.
“Find ways to put the ball on the floor and create my shot a lot easier, work on my touch around the rim.”
McDonald said he picked up track in high school as a hobby, a way to keep himself in better condition for his jump to the next level. That hobby quickly turned into something a lot more serious when he realized he was actually pretty good at running long distances.
“As the season went on, I started moving up and my times started getting better,” he said.
“I actually got pretty good by the end of the year. I was always the biggest guy in every race. It was funny to watch me running with all those little guys.”
Now the Buckeyes will ask him to run with a lot of bigger guys. There’s no guarantee of when the coaches will call his number or how much Matta really wants to use him in his rotation.
That can often turn into an ongoing storyline, but McDonald understands his quickest way on to the court is on defense and on the glass.
“I’m ready for my opportunity,” he said, “when it comes I’m just going to grab it.”
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