Ohio State redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop was pegged by many as a sleeper for production before the start of the 2017-18 season. Bates-Diop was one of the returning players on an Ohio State team that was beginning a perceived rebuild and was expected to be a major cog in the team’s offense.
In a season that has defied expectations, Bates-Diop vastly outperformed what many believed he could do, leading the Buckeyes No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament while as a star in the conference. His efforts for the campaign were rewarded Monday when the 6-foot-7 forward was named Big Ten Player of the Year.
He is the first Buckeye to receive the honor since guard Evan Turner earned it after the 2009-10 season.
Bates-Diop averaged 19.2 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game, while playing in 32.7 minutes per game. He finished the regular season with 12 double-doubles and scored more than 20 points 12 times.
Before the season began, head coach Chris Holtmann said that both Bates-Diop and senior forward Jae’Sean Tate were going to have to carry the load at times for Ohio State. That narrative quickly changed to Holtmann saying he expected Bates-Diop to eventually regress and stop averaging nearly 20 points per game. But Bates-Diop never let up too much, though he did average only 14.8 points in the final six games of the season.
The breakout campaign came a season after the small forward was forced to redshirt his true junior season after fracturing his leg. He appeared in just nine games in the 2016-17 season, while struggling to maintain consistent production, averaging only 9.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.