In Chris Holtmann’s first season as the head coach at Ohio State, he had Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate to rely on in the paint.
Both players provided different styles offensively — Tate being the bruising, layup player down low and Bates-Diop having the ability to pull up, showing some production behind the 3-point line.
However, both provided the size needed defensively to be a presence in the post, with Bates-Diop and Tate each averaging more than six rebounds per game in their final season with the Buckeyes.
For much of the 2018-19 season, both offensive roles and tha major defensive post role has shrunk from two players to one: sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson.
He leads the team in points, averaging 16.2 per game while only increasing his average time played by 3.8 minutes. His attempts from inside the 2-point line have increased to 7.8 per game, connecting on 58.4 percent. He’s increased his willingness to shoot from deep, averaging 2.1 attempts from 3 and connecting on 32.4 percent, a 13.24 percent increase from his freshman season.
He’s a force in the paint as well, exceeding both his offensive and defensive rebound totals to two more per game than he averaged a season ago.
Wesson is Ohio State’s main game plan and target. And it’s something that other teams are very aware of.
“It’s also tough when there is a lot of teams that will post trap and double and stuff like that,” sophomore forward Kyle Young said.
Post presence was something that Holtmann wanted and expected to carry over into his second season, despite the decrease in team size with the absence of Tate and Bates-Diop.
But this is a job for more than one player.
“We have to continue to grow that aspect of our guys’ games,” Holtmann said. “Andre is a guy that has shown an ability to do that, as has Kyle at times, not really something that Kyle has ever done, but he’s shown an ability to do it, and [freshman forward Jaedon LeDee]. I think there are multiple guys that we are trying to play through.”
Especially in terms of rebounding, no player has come close to the nearly seven rebounds per game Wesson averages. Young, junior forward Andre Wesson and senior guard C.J. Jackson are the closest, averaging more than four per game.
Holtmann said Andre Wesson is the next player on the roster expected to have a post presence, averaging career highs in both offensive and defensive rebounding this season.
But when Kaleb Wesson has gone to the bench early on in the past few games due to foul trouble, Young has been the one who has stepped up, providing a consistent presence down low, especially offensively.
In five Big Ten games, including four starts, the sophomore forward has only averaged 7.2 points per game, but has made 17 of 21 shot attempts from the field, an 81 percent success rate that is leaps and bounds better than anyone on the roster not named redshirt junior guard Danny Hummer, who had connected on the only shot he has attempted.
Young has also made an impact on the boards, finishing second behind Kaleb Wesson with 4.6 rebounds against conference opponents. However, 10 of his 23 total rebounds against the Big Ten have been offensive boards.
Young said he and Kaleb Wesson have developed a good relationship, coming into Ohio State in the same recruiting class. He said they have developed chemistry and have developed a better connection the more he got to know him both on and off the court.
Now Young’s focus is on taking advantage of extending Ohio State’s presence in the paint, not leaving it only to one man.
“I think we can continue to be more tough and physical, utilizing that game more inside, maybe looking to get to a move first instead of just getting it in and passing it out right away,” Young said. “We just need to keep working on it every day and it will get better.”