With the loss of Ohio State’s most valuable players in forward Keita Bates-Diop, who left early for the NBA Draft, and forward Jae’Sean Tate, who graduated, the Buckeyes come into the 2018-19 season looking to find new scoring outlets, as well as new players to step up into the leadership roles.
Senior guard C.J. Jackson seems to be the lead candidate, and he said he is ready to make that jump.
“Yeah, definitely,” Jackson said when asked if he viewed this team as his. “I’m kind of the one with the most experience coming back, but not just me personally, like my team, it’s kind of all of our team.”
Jackson played in all 34 games last season for Ohio State and averaged 12.6 points per game on 41.6 percent shooting, including 37.9 percent from behind the arc.
With Tate and Bates-Diop gone, the Buckeyes face a possible down year following a season with an unlikely tournament appearance and a 15-3 record in the Big Ten.
This year, Jackson said the underdog mindset is still there from a season ago because of the amount of turnover on the roster.
“This team hasn’t proved anything,” Jackson said. “We have to come in with the same mindset as we did last year, as far as we just have to do it for each other, do it for the coaches, and nothing else matters.”
Jackson attended a leadership camp for Athletes in Action this summer in an attempt to become the leader his team needs. He said the experience taught him to be heard by his teammates, a year after he said he was not “being vocal in practice, off the court.”
“The coaches sent me, basically to be a leader for this team,” he said. “That kind of helped me see where my strengths are as being a leader and what I need to work on.”
With this being his senior year, Jackson said he has his mind set on savoring the moment and leaving a positive impact on the future of Ohio State basketball.
“I’m just trying to enjoy every moment at this point, really value my relationships, my days here I know are very limited, and I kind of don’t want to have any bad-attitude days,” Jackson said. “I just want to go out and leave the program in a good spot.”
Jackson already became the second-highest scorer per game on the team a year ago. But, in his final year for Ohio State, the expectations are heightened for him to take over.