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Men’s Basketball: Ohio State loses post depth without Micah Potter

Former Ohio State junior center Micah Potter (0) leaves the game in second half of the exhibition game against UNC Pembroke on Nov. 1. Ohio State won 81-63. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo Editor

Micah Potter made the most of the 11 minutes he played in the exhibition against UNC Pembroke on Thursday. The junior forward recorded 13 points, making all four shot attempts, connecting on five of six from the free-throw line, recording six rebounds and a block.

But those 11 minutes for Potter would be the last minutes he will play for Ohio State.

Ohio State announced Monday he will transfer from the program.

In 59 games, including 16 starts for the Buckeyes, the 6-foot-9 forward averaged 2.8 rebounds and 4.1 points per game, shooting 46 percent from the field.

Moving into the 2018-19 season, Potter’s role seemed set. In the exhibition against the Braves, he was consistently subbing in and out for starting sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson, except for a two-minute period in the second half during which Potter and Wesson played together on the court.

But Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said both Wesson and Potter playing together was never something he truly considered to be a consistent option.

“Today’s day and age, it’s hard to play guys like that,” Holtmann said. “It’s on rare occasions where you play two traditional bigs. I think it’s certainly something I would like to look at, but 95 percent of teams don’t play that anymore.”

All in all, Holtmann said prior to the start of the season that the entire makeup of his team is changing. With the loss of forwards Jae’Sean Tate and reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State lost length and versatility down low, becoming more inclined to try and beat opponents from outside of the paint.

But with the loss of Potter, Ohio State loses even more depth in the post.

Ohio State will have sophomore Kyle Young, junior Andre Wesson, freshman Justin Ahrens and freshman Jaedon LeDee as the other forwards on the roster with Kaleb Wesson. Of those forwards, only LeDee and Kaleb Wesson are taller than 6-foot-8.

Even though Ohio State’s game plan may shift toward more of a midrange, shoot-first offense, Holtmann said playing bigs in the post, especially Kaleb Wesson, remains integral.

“We still are obviously going to play through the post and we are still going to use our guys in there, in particular Kaleb and others, that can score, still going to continue to drive the ball,” Holtmann said.  

Holtmann also highlighted Wesson’s passing ability, saying he has “point guard-type vision,” especially on the perimeter. He has also has developed a three-point shot, something he did not have last season, making two of nine attempts from deep.

Starting alongside Wesson, Young has some high expectations according to his head coach, specifically with the shoes he has to fill in the starting lineup.

“I just think that people see now his role being increased with Keita’s absence and he has done some good things in practice,” Holtmann said. “He has done some good things. Kyle’s going to be a work in progress, as young guys are.”

But with the loss of Potter, the expectation for game-ready depth, specifically from LeDee, has increased dramatically.

Coming in as a four-star recruit, LeDee, in his first taste of collegiate action, made both his attempts from the field and five of six from the free-throw line. He also recorded seven rebounds, tied with sophomore guard Musa Jallow for second-most on the team against UNC Pembroke.

But LeDee is still in that place of uncertainty, not knowing what his role will be in the upcoming season.

“I’m kind of just out there trying to feel things out,” LeDee said. “It’s a new game for me, but in practice, I’ve kind of just been with the bigs and I try to learn just one new position at a time and taking my time, but just wherever coach Holtmann puts me, I’ll be at.”  

With the loss of Potter, and with the amount of forwards on the roster, LeDee’s role seems to have been defined.

But Potter’s decision to transfer may be more than just about this current season.

Ohio State has secured commitments from 2019 four-star forward Alonzo Gaffney and four-star forward EJ Liddell, which, along with five-star point guard DJ Carton, brings in the No. 1 2019 Big Ten recruiting class and the No. 7 class in the country.

While Potter thinks about his future, Ohio State has to focus on the present, looking at a lack of proven depth behind Kaleb Wesson in the front court.

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