OSU Men's Basketball Media Day Notebook
by Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State men's basketball team held it's annual media day on Thursday, allowing us to talk to the team and Thad Matta in order to get a preview of the upcoming season. As you would expect, everybody associated with the program is excited about this season, especially the team's only two seniors – Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Smith said that together, he and Craft have been through so much that nothing can really take them by surprise this season. They have both seen the highs and lows (relatively speaking) of Ohio State basketball, and they know what it takes to get the best out of a team. Smith said that he has been a leader for a couple of years now, so this being his senior year, he doesn't feel any more added pressure because he's just going to do what he's already been doing.
Craft said that he expects this team to be better than last year's team. Sam Thompson said the goal for this team is a national championship.
Replacing Deshaun Thomas
Photo by Jim Davidson
Speaking in a literal sense, the Buckeyes will likely replace Deshaun Thomas with LaQuinton Ross. Ross has the size necessary to play the “stretch four” position, as well as the perimeter skills that Thad Matta likes in his power forwards.
For his part, Ross said that he is ready for the role and has even worked on his back-to-the-basket post game. He has added 10 pounds from last season and is up to 225. Matta said that both Ross and true freshman Marc Loving will get a look at power forward. He said that Loving has a great feel for the game. Matta has been pleasantly surprised by the way Loving is shooting and finishing.
Matta said Ross finished the season well last year, and he got a better understanding of what they need to do as a team, and what Ross needs to do to be productive.
Ross said that he is ready for whatever is asked of him, even if Matta calls for him to play some center when the Buckeyes go to a smaller lineup. Matta said that that will definitely happen at times this year, because they know what a matchup problem it can be. In that scenario, Sam Thompson will be at power forward, and the guards will be Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., and Shannon Scott.
Style and Substance
Photo by Jim Davidson
Matta said that he wants this team to run, and that means centers Amir Williams and Trey McDonald will have to run as well. McDonald cut weight in the offseason, and Williams is leaner as well, as both prepare for more tempo.
With two or three point guards on the court at any one time, the Buckeyes are going to push the ball as much as they can. Players have focused on improving their shooting and distributing in the offseason, so with the up tempo running, they'll be better suited to shoot and pass on the move.
What he wants most out of his team however is consistency. He's not going to sacrifice consistency just to run up and down the court. He cited his desire for Lenzelle Smith Jr. to become a more consistent shooter. They don't want him to be so streaky.
Similarly, they are asking Amir Williams to just be consistent. They are not asking for greatness.
Speaking of Amir Williams
We should eventually have a story on this, but Williams talked about the backlash that he has received from fans who have been unhappy with his play, and while it is disappointing to him, he is learning to ignore it.
He said that he has heard people question his desire and his love for basketball, but in a 10-minute conversation, he said that he loved basketball repeatedly. As he said, nobody would put themselves through what an Ohio State basketball player goes through if they didn't love the sport.
Williams said that he's not using any of this as motivation, however, because he's moving past it.
The Next Step for Sam Thompson
Thompson told me that he has worked this offseason on putting the ball on the floor, not only for scoring, but also for distributing. He compared it to the work that he put in last year on becoming a consistent shooter, which led to him shooting 40% from 3FG and 50% from 2FG.
He said that the sky is the limit for himself, and he's put the work in to get there. He realizes how difficult this team is to defend when he is scoring, and that will be a focus for him this season.
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