Men's Basketball

Chris Holtmann Provides Updates on Buckeye Basketball

Chris Holtmann

Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann took part in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. He answered questions regarding the number of transfers of late, the addition of Harvard graduate transfer Seth Towns, and his overall feel for where the team is at right now. All of the highlights from the extended session are below.

Chris Holtmann

+ Wanted to begin by sending out the program’s thoughts to those who have been impacted by COVID-19. Athletics has been greatly impacted from the very top down to high schools. The world has been impacted and OSU is trying to do what they can to mitigate those issues.

+ There wasn’t an end-of-the-year wrap up press conference, but some final thoughts from Holtmann… Felt very good about how they were playing and finishing, winning 9 of last 12 in the deepest league in the country is a positive. They responded to the struggles in January well. This year brought their highest AP ranking since Holtmann has been here and their best offensive and defensive efficiency in his three seasons. He felt confident about the team’s ability to advance in the tournament and the numbers back that up.

+ Moving forward, there are seven guys returning next year and six of them have played significant minutes. They will be counted on to take the next step as players. They are excited about the freshmen Zed Key and Eugene Brown. Excited about Seth Towns as well.

+ Looking forward to seeing EJ Liddell taking that next step.

+ Kaleb Wesson is committed to staying in the NBA Draft, which they expected and support. Both Wessons will be significant losses.

+ CJ Walker is putting his name into the draft process but he expects to return and lead the team next year.

+ Asked what is leading to the escalation of transfers from players who are actually getting to play and start, Holtmann said he thinks it’s a variety of different reasons. Players in those situations want to play a different position or they want more shot attempts. They want more of something. “I think that is where a lot of this…” is coming from. He doesn’t think it’s anything beyond that. Players just want something different. Coaches generally are of the thought that it’s best for both parties when you run into this situation.

+ Holtmann has been trying to develop some type of a routine right now. Starting with a workout in the morning in a makeshift gym in his garage. “If you can remember any of the Rocky movies, think of that gym in my garage.” They have staff calls among the basketball team every day for 30-45 minutes to set the agenda. After that he is talking with players, parents, recruiting, but not getting into as much film work right now as he’d like to. And it’s been nice to have meals as a family together. “It’s allowed me to really evaluate my wife’s cooking, which she’s really appreciated.” She’s a better cook than she gets credit for.

+ What has he learned from this? That he loves this job and loves this team. You get reminded of that.

+ The number of transfers on the team next year isn’t necessarily outside of Holtmann’s idea of what is ideal. The Final Four teams from 2007-2010, there was one four-year transfer that started — Ron Lewis. Fast-forward to the four years previous to this one, 13 four-year transfers started in the Final Four. The idea of roster management is a critical part of the job now. It is challenging, but there is also flexibility.

+ If you look at the numbers, OSU is at the Big Ten average for number of transfers over his three years. There are always things you can look at and do better and evaluate to try to mitigate the transfers, but you’re never going to be without some kind of transition every year. “You almost have to account for that.” There is also the shuffling of a roster as you take over a program. “I feel as good about this roster leading into the offseason as I’ve felt about any roster leading into the offseason.” He feels good about the leadership returning. They will have to overcome losing Kaleb Wesson’s size.

+ Holtmann didn’t want to get specific about transfer cases of late at Ohio State. He wishes DJ Carton and Luther Muhammad well at their next schools. It looks like Alonzo Gaffeny is looking at pro ball. If a young man says, “Hey, this is what I want,” and you don’t feel like that is what is best for him or the program, the transfer conversations are going to happen. It’s not a reflection on the player, it’s just reality. You can’t play 10 guys 40 minutes. You can’t have four point guards.

+ Seth Towns is a mature guy being a Harvard graduate. His shooting provides a specific need. He has to get to a place of full health.

+ Strength coach Quadrian Banks has sent the players workouts they can do from home. EJ Liddell goes to his high school track and runs with his mom. That’s where he does his conditioning. But it’s not the same as being at OSU and being monitored and evaluated by Banks. All of the guys are doing those things, and they’re harder than the players anticipated. They were complaining yesterday during a team meeting, “which you love to hear as a coach.”

+ The current team members are still in contact with those who have transferred out.

+ Duane Washington will have a significant role on next year’s team. He won’t be alone. Guys need to take big steps. Washington emerged in a lot of ways last season and had some critical moments in critical games. He played well at point guard as well. He’s young for his class and has tremendous upside. He’s still growing into who he is as a player.

+ There is a good blend of experienced guys from the OSU program and experienced guys from a couple of other programs. Now you blend them together. “We’re going to be much different.” The Wessons were the two best defenders and two best perimeter shooters. What you hope for as a coach is the returning guys develop and take that next step.

+ Defensively without Kaleb Wesson, “we’re going to have to look at how we do things.” They will be playing differently offensively and defensively. EJ Liddell provides some rim protection. Kyle Young will have to get better there. And the young guys will need to help out as well.

+ Kyle Young has played the PF spot the last two years but has guarded the biggest guy routinely, so he has experience defending the center. So with EJ Liddel as the PF and Young as the PF/Center, the other guys will fill in and help. Ibrahima Diallo and Zed Key will have to help, but there won’t always be a traditional five, unless it’s Diallo on the court. There aren’t a whole lot of traditional centers on the court anymore. The biggest thing is keeping Kyle Young healthy. He’s never been above 23 mins per game in league play.

+ Tony Dungy was on a call with the team yesterday. They do this with various former coaches and leaders. Dungy talked about coaching during strikes and lockouts and how they were able to grow closer from their time away.

+ There is a concern when it comes to building chemistry with so many new faces and injuries among them and the uncertainty of when everyone is going to finally be able to get together. “We’re going to have to hit the ground running.” It took them a long time last year to figure out how they were going to close games. “Blame it on me…”

+ Justice Sueing is a smart kid. “I think he’ll have to transition to Big Ten basketball. It’s different than the league he came from (Pac 12).” He is motivated and will be healthy in time. He’s hard to keep in front of you and he gets into the paint at a high level.

+ The rehab for every injured player has been impacted by the pandemic. Everything has taken a back seat. They are still rehabbing via some virtual meetings, but those have limitations. They will all recover, but it’s a question mark when it’s time to get back on the court.

+ He and Ryan Day have talked a bit and bounced some ideas off of each other about what they’re doing with players. Two weeks into this, Urban Meyer called him and gave him some good thoughts on what he’d be doing right now if he was in this position.

+ Once a week there is a Zoom meeting with the team to touch base collectively. They enjoy being around each other. “They were in great spirits yesterday.” Holtmann doesn’t try to keep them too long. Right now it’s mostly academic stuff and also taking the pandemic seriously for their health and their families’ healthy.

+ He finds himself thinking more about the tournament the last couple of weeks than in the first two weeks after everything got canceled. That’s probably because he’s been watching games the last two weeks and was really liking the way the team closed things out. “I would have loved to have seen a bracket.” More for the conversation. The Buckeyes would have been a 4, 5, or 6. It would have been fun to take a look at that and know what the route would have looked like.

+ Holtmann has no problems recruiting one-and-done types of players, but they have to be the right fit for how OSU does things.

+ Asked to evaluate the program after three years, Holtmann said he’d leave that up to other people. Compared to other programs where a coach is in is third year, he feels good about where things are. They were 1 of 6 teams in the nation that were in the top 20 in offense and defense efficiency.

+ Recruiting has entailed a bunch of FaceTime calls and Zoom calls within NCAA rules with recruits. You try to build relationships as much as you can “face to face.” They are still texting and mailing recruits.