Point guard CJ Walker has been an Ohio State Buckeye for about a year and a half, but has yet to play a single minute. That will change tonight in an exhibition contest against Cedarville, and then for real a week from tonight when the Buckeyes open their regular season by hosting the University of Cincinnati.
Walker transferred to Ohio State from Florida State following the 2017-2018 season. The last game he played in was March 24, 2018 in a loss to Michigan in the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament. Walker sat out last season as a transfer and watched from the bench as the Buckeyes went to the tournament last year.
Wednesday night he will be back on the court in front of a crowd for the first time in a very long time, and even though it’s just an exhibition game, he is looking forward to it.
“I know I am for a fact,” Walker said on Tuesday. “I haven’t played since — I looked it up the other day, I haven’t played in like 500-something days. I was that desperate to play a game that I looked it up, so I am most definitely ready to play, and play against somebody else in front of a crowd and get to play with my teammates.”
Walker, who has two years of eligibility with the Buckeyes, started as a true sophomore for that Seminoles team that went to the Elite 8.
With last year’s point guards CJ Jackson and Keyshawn Woods both departing Ohio State due to graduation, the Buckeye lineup has a void to fill, and Walker and blue-chip freshman DJ Carton are expected to split time running the show.
Walker will bring experience, while Carton will bring explosion. Walker also has the added benefit of simply sitting and watching last year’s point guards and what Buckeye head coach Chris Holtmann did and didn’t like about the way they played.
“I just kind of took last year as full advantage, just be able to learn how Coach Holtmann wants his team run,” Walker said. “So I was able to learn from CJ Jackson and Keyshawn and kind of see how Coach Holtmann wants things to work out for the team and what he really wants his point guards to do.”
One of the things Walker learned is that he better be able to handle criticism.
“He’s really hard on this point guards, and that’s something that’s a blessing and a curse,” Walker said. “You want a coach to coach you. You just want to get better.”
Watching as he did gave him a vantage point that few players get to experience. He didn’t have to worry about a game plan or a scouting report. He simply watched the game and internalized as much as he could.
“I was just able to see the game from a different perspective, like seeing always from the outside because I obviously didn’t play,” he said. “So I just kind of took that in consideration. Just took it on the floor this year. You know, slowing down a lot, just making the right plays and letting the game come to me and be able to make plays.
“We’ve got big time players on this team that can put the ball in the hole. And just being a leader. It was kind of hard last year not being able to play and trying to say something, but you’re not contributing. So it’s kind of hard to find that balance. I was just able to take that and use it this year and it’s kind of worked out for the better. My teammates believe in me and they’ve got respect for me, and likewise.”
Walker has been with the team for well over a year and been through team workouts and an entire year of practice last season. He might be a new face to those in the stands Wednesday night, but he’s been around for a while now.
Which is all the more reason why he can’t wait to finally get his Buckeye career started.
“He’s pretty eager,” Holtmann said on Tuesday. “He’s pretty eager to get out there, and I said earlier that our fans are going to love him once they get to know him. He’s a tremendous kid and has provided maturity and leadership that we desperately needed with this group. But there’s no question he’s going to be really eager to get out there.”
— (The game tonight against Cedarville is available exclusively on BTN Plus, which is a PPV streaming service from BTN. It will not be available via your cable package. Prices start at $9.95.) —