The Chris Holtmann Era is underway at Ohio State and so far the Buckeyes are surpassing initial expectations. Most recently, the Buckeyes shocked the nation with their 80-64 upset win over No. 1 Michigan State.
Arguably the best player on the court that game was fourth-year junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, who recorded a career-high 32 points against the Spartans. Bates-Diop earned his second Big Ten Player of the Week award of this season. After sitting out most of last season due to a stress fracture in his left leg, Bates-Diop looks like a completely different player coming back this season.
Even though this win over No. 1 Michigan State led by Bates-Diop goes on Chris Holtmann’s record, the Buckeye head coach has no desire to take all of the credit. The development of the players is key, but bringing in the right kind of people is the important part, and that credit goes to former head coach Thad Matta.
“I will probably call [Thad] this week,” Holtmann said after the MSU win. “I think Thad and his coaching staff — and I want to make very clear on this and I want to make sure this is said and spoken and tweeted — Thad and his coaching staff deserve a ton of credit for recruiting a young man like Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate. And Kam Williams is really coming into his own.
“People ask me all the time what makes guys like Keita and J.T. good players, and first of all they are exceptional people. Coach Matta and his staff deserve a ton of credit for recruiting those kind of people because they’ve embraced a new coaching staff, and they’ve done it the right way.”
Coming in as a new coach, Holtmann did not know exactly what he would get with this team. After Sunday’s win he even expressed how surprised he was with the performance against Michigan State and how much the team has progressed ahead of schedule so far.
“I think our connection and our chemistry has been above and beyond maybe what I anticipated,” he said. “And you never know as a coach what the buy in is going to be. You just don’t know that. And our players deserve a ton of credit because we got here as a coaching staff in June and we’re not tyrants, but we haven’t coached them with kid gloves either. And they’ve accepted that and embraced that.”
At the beginning of the season, Holtmann said that this team will go as far as Tate and Bates-Diop take them. Holtmann gives those guys a lot of credit for the team’s success so far this season.
“They’re the reason,” he said. “You look at the teams — Texas Southern cut it to two, Miami cut it to a basket. They’re the reason that we’ve been able to pull those games out and finish those games.”
The Buckeyes have had some high moments so far this season. While there is still a lot of basketball to be played, they are beginning to look like a tournament team despite early doubters.
Bates-Diop has had quite the time at Ohio State so far; from Coach Matta recruiting and developing him, to a year of sitting out and working, to Coach Holtmann coming in with a new perspective.
Through it all, KBD has come back this season stronger than ever, and if he continues to play at the level he has been, the future seems pretty bright for this Buckeye team.
[Keita Bates-Diop photo courtesy OhioStateBuckeyes.com]