The Ohio State men’s basketball team will face No. 14 Purdue on Saturday in a crucial late-season matchup.
But that wasn’t the big topic when OSU head coach Chris Holtmann held his weekly press conference Friday afternoon at the Schottenstein Center.
The suspension of star forward Kaleb Wesson could have a massive impact on the rest of this season.
Saturday, the Buckeyes will head to Purdue to face the No. 14 Boilermakers. It’s a chance to pick up a huge win that could dramatically improve their NCAA Tournament seed.
But it will be an uphill climb without their big man.
Here’s a look at what Holtmann and some of the Buckeyes had to say about Wesson and the challenge ahead.
+ They expect Wesson to return this season.
+ They are hard at work preparing for Purdue, which is unbeaten at home this season. The Boilermakers are a “really, really impressive group.”
+ Purdue is a great challenge, even more so without Wesson.
+ Kaleb Wesson has had a great season, and has “really impacted” the team on both ends.
+ The suspension was “a very recent development.”
+ They’re trying to keep it a private matter, but there are expectations that Wesson will have to meet.
+ It was a violation of athletic department policy, so they are following athletic department procedure for when he can return.
+ Kaleb Wesson has progressed a lot on the floor this season. Sometimes we want people to grow as players and people quicker than is realistic. But this is a process.
+ Kaleb Wesson had the best academic semester of his career in the fall.
+ Wesson will continue to be with the team every step of the process.
+ “We’ll see” how the team reacts to the suspension. It’s too early to tell right now.
+ You don’t have to have studied this team too long to figure out how important Wesson has been to their success.
+ He anticipates that Jaedon LeDee will play a bigger role in Wesson’s absence. Kyle Young is still limited.
+ It’s also going to mean continued heavy minutes for Andre Wesson in Kaleb’s absence.
+ He’s not sure how sustainable the small ball lineup is for long stretches. It creates issues in terms of both defense and rebounding.
+ They’re not going to play 40 minutes of small ball.
+ It’s up to Holtmann whether Kaleb Wesson can travel, and he will be traveling and sitting on the bench during games. He will still be practicing as well.
+ “It’s more conceivable than it was a week ago” that walk-on Harrison Hookfin will play. But he still has a lot to learn.
+ It’s important to have guys that are perceived to be a threat on offense. They’re trying to balance that with the need to play good defense. “Having those guys on the floor really helped us.”
+ At times, their offense has struggled so much that they felt they had to make that shift and kind of figure it out on the defensive end. He would prefer to prioritize defense.
+ C.J. Jackson is “better” and close to “full-go.” He has played 30 minutes a game, and that has probably had a bigger impact than Holtmann would want to admit.
+ They also dealt with a suspension to Kam Williams last year. That was a different team in a different position and earlier in the season. But the guys around him were really different, but they’ve had some reflection back to that.
+ There’s a lot of time, energy, and thought put into how they want to respond to the suspension. They don’t want to make big changes, but it requires more time, thought and discussion than usual.
+ Every team goes through difficult moments in a season. They have a resilient team, and guys who care about the team, and they’re excited to move forward with Kaleb in a different role.
+ OSU women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff is a terrific coach, but they haven’t spent a lot of time together. The men’s and women’s games are somewhat different. He has been happy to see them get rolling lately, but they’re still in something of a bubble during the season.
+ The team is very close, and they need to work hard to stay together and support each other in Wesson’s absence.
+ They would prefer to have Wesson on the floor, but if they have to play small ball without him, they will.
+ “We’re not finished.” They still have three regular season games left, and they can’t get too hyped up after the big win over Iowa.
+ Kaleb Wesson has talked to the team following his suspension. “He’s fine.”
+ Justin Ahrens brings a lot of spirit and energy to the OSU team, and works so hard that it was great to see him have a big night against Iowa.
+ In the first matchup with Purdue, the Buckeyes got it close in the second half. If they can translate the good things they did in that game and keep it up for both halves, that would be huge. But they can’t turn it over.
+ They don’t want to take anything for granted. They want to cherish every chance they get to play together.
+ C.J. Jackson brings a lot to the team, and Woods knew he had to step up after Jackson got hurt.