The Ohio State men’s basketball team has three freshmen on the roster this year, and had Chris Holtmann not been quick on his feet, it would have only been one.
Center Kaleb Wesson committed to the Buckeyes back in 2015, but guard Musa Jallow and small forward Kyle Young were late adds in July, about one month after Holtmann was hired. Together, they have bolstered an Ohio State roster that is very thin on players.
On Sunday, those three players got their first experience as Buckeyes, taking part in OSU’s 88-63 win over Division III Wooster.
Even though it was an exhibition game, and not without its struggles, Holtmann liked the experience that was gained for his young players.
“I think the opportunity for our guys to play in front of fans, and they brought a large contingent too, was great,” he said. “The reality is that teams are going to make runs on us and we have to respond the right way. I think we were a little slow to respond in some of the situations, but overall I thought it was good for us to get a chance for some of our young guys to play.”
Wesson led the freshmen with 16 points and seven rebounds. Jallow and Young added six points each.
They entered the game together at the 14:15 mark of the first half.
What was it like to check in together?
“It was a blessing,” Jallow said. “You don’t always get to have the connection we have. We are all roommates, we all checked in at the same time, it was like hooping with one of your friends back home.”
While it was their first time on the Value City Arena court as collegians, it was not the first time for Young and Wesson completely.
“It was awesome,” Young said of the experience. “I have some great memories and you can always build something from your past with that and me and Kaleb both played on this floor in our high school careers, so it was cool to get back on with Ohio State.”
An imposing figure inside at 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds, Wesson displayed nice basket awareness on the night. He hit 5-of-8 from the field and showed that he could be a point contributor for the Buckeyes this season.
“It felt good,” Wesson said. “I had butterflies at the beginning of the game but after I got in, I was like, it’s just basketball. It was fun.”
Part of the fun was getting back on the court in a meaningful way, and another part of it was the support he received from the veterans throughout the game.
“It was awesome,” he said. “You make a good play and you see Joey Lane over there throwing his towel around, and everyone jumping around. It definitely brings a better morale to the team.”
All three of the freshmen bring unique abilities to the Buckeyes. Wesson is a big body who can score in the paint and rebound. Young (6-8 205) is a slashing wing with range, and Jallow (6-5 200) is an athletic guard who is only 17 years old and still growing into what he can become.
“I am taking it day-by-day,” Jallow said. “I am learning the whole system, and getting acclimated to the collegiate pace. I have been working my butt off and trying to get better every day.”
The games start counting on Friday, and the Buckeyes are going to need their young freshmen to contribute as much as they can. Based on one exhibition performance, there is plenty of potential here, and the Buckeyes may not have to wait long to see it.
[Musa Jallow photo courtesy ohiostatebuckeyes.com]