Coming off its first losing record in 12 years, the Ohio State women’s basketball team is looking forward to the start of a new season.
OSU is set to return to action on Sunday coming off of a 17-18 (5-11) season, which culminated in a loss to Iowa in the semifinal of the Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes will have to play without freshman forwards Makayla Waterman and Chelsea Mitchell for the season after they suffered ACL injuries during practice. OSU will also be without redshirt-freshman guard and Duke transfer Kianna Holland because of an ACL injury.
Freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell said it was difficult to see her teammates suffer such devastating injuries before the start of the season.
“It’s a lot to deal with, it’s hard,” Kelsey Mitchell said. “Especially considering that we’re all teammates and we all love each other very much. It just made things a lot harder to see the ones that work hard go down over something they can’t control.”
Freshman guard Asia Doss said the team is hoping for a fast recovery for their sidelined teammates and has come closer as a group since the injuries occured.
“Everything’s just coming together,” Doss said. “With all the adversity we’ve faced, we’ve come together.”
With sophomore forward and Georgetown transfer Shayla Cooper ineligible to play for the Buckeyes until the end of the semester and the dismissal of senior guard Raven Ferguson from the program, OSU will have to compete with only seven active members on the roster to start the season.
“Most teams only play seven or eight players,” junior guard Ameryst Alston said. “We’re not going to let that discourage us.”
Along with playing more minutes, the team will also have to focus on limiting fouls to keep players in games. Doss said fouling is something the team will have to be careful with but can’t let it change their style of play.
“We can’t think about it too much to the point where we don’t play aggressive,” Doss said. “We just have to keep our hands off the offensive player.”
Alston said with the lack of depth currently on the roster, the team will need to focus on being in shape to endure extra minutes.
“We definitely have to make sure that we’re well conditioned,” Alston said. “We’ve just got to be in good shape and do what we do.”
Alston was tied for first in the Big Ten in minutes played last season, averaging 36.7 minutes per game.
Coach Kevin McGuff said the addition of Kelsey Mitchell has helped take pressure off of Alston and sees the pair working well together.
“They play really well together,” McGuff said. “They’ve got good chemistry, they both share the ball really well, and so they make each other better and their teammates.”
Alston had praise for her new teammate as well, and added she looks experienced beyond her years.
“She’s such a great player,” Alston said. “She doesn’t look like a freshman at all. She’s very fun to watch and to play with.”
The team is also looking forward to the return of redshirt-sophomore forward Kalpana Beach, who missed the previous two seasons because of knee injuries. McGuff said Beach has looked good in practice and hopes she can be a factor for the Buckeyes.
“I think she’s making really good progress,” McGuff said. “She’s got great athletic ability and I think can really help us in an area we’re going to need it, rebounding.”
Junior guard Cait Craft and freshman forward Alexa Hart are the final two healthy players McGuff has on his roster.
McGuff also noted that there is a possibility for a walk-on to join the team but is waiting for the right person to come around.
“If we came across somebody that made sense, we’d certainly entertain the idea but it hasn’t happened yet,” McGuff said.
OSU is set to start its season with an exhibition game against Eckerd College on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.