Somebody asked Ohio State center Dallas Lauderdale if he was happy with his performance in Friday’s win over California, a game in which the junior blocked seven shots.
Before he could answer, junior guard Jon Diebler gave his two cents.
“I like having him back there,” Diebler said.
It seems clear that this OSU team doesn’t need a lot of points from the center position, with all of the scoring coming from other positions. If his performance Friday was a sign of things to come, Lauderdale is ready to be that dominant defensive presence the Buckeyes need.
“Coach [Thad Matta] always tells me to own the paint,” Lauderdale said. “Anything in the paint, offensively and defensively, is mine. I really take that to heart and that’s what I need to do.”
Lauderdale said that mentality was not something that came right away. He said he didn’t own the paint as a freshman or for most of his sophomore season. It was not until the end of last year, Lauderdale said, that he really began to understand his role on the team.
“We need a post presence to just go hold down the post and open things up for the wings so that they can do what they do,” Lauderdale said. “Owning the paint is going to open things up for the wings. [The other centers and I] can’t just fade into the background.”
With Lauderdale returned from a hand injury, the Buckeyes have regained the low post presence that was lacking in his absence. Kyle Madsen and Zisis Sarikopoulos sufficed as temporary replacements, but neither has the defensive prowess of Lauderdale.
With Lauderdale back, Diebler said the Buckeyes have confidence in their second line of defense.
“If I get blitzed, my man Dallas is back there,” Diebler said. “Just having a guy, a threat back there and knowing that he can not just block shots, but alter shots, it gives you that much more confidence on defense.”
Lauderdale’s development as a shot blocker is encouraging, Matta said, and he has adapted an ability to keep the ball in bounds after a block.
Last season there were a number of times Lauderdale would block a shot into the second or third row of the stands, and although the thunderous blocks were a sight to see, they allowed the opposition to retain possession. Now, Lauderdale seems to have changed his style.
“He had a block against Cal where he blocked the ball back in bounds, which is a huge step,” Matta said. “I actually saw in his eyes, when he saw that he could block it he realized he could deflect it back in bounds. Those are little things that hopefully we continue to expand on.”
Lauderdale acknowledged that in the past he might have had a flair for the dramatic. But now, after studying some of the game’s greats, he has become the shot blocker Matta wants him to be.
“I pay attention to old school blockers such as Bill Russell, how he always kept it in bounds,” Lauderdale said. “I’ve also been watching Dwight Howard and how he just catches it. Instead of swatting it into the stands I might try and catch one.”