During Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann’s first season, forward Andre Wesson did not make a great first impression.
Averaging 18.5 minutes per game off the bench, he shot 37.9 percent from the field, averaging 2.9 points per game along with 2.3 personal fouls. Holtmann said the then-sophomore forward took bad shots, especially early last season, and struggled with turnovers.
“I remember everyone was yelling at me, ‘Bench Wesson and bench [Andrew] Dakich,’” Holtmann said.
But to the head coach, it was the uncertainty Wesson had of his own game in Holtmann’s first season that caused the forward to have problems.
“I think he struggled with, ‘where do I, how do I impact the game, where do I impact the game?’” Holtmann said.
Without a true expectation for how significant Wesson’s impact would be for Ohio State during the 2018-19 season — many viewed him as a defensive specialist off the bench — Wesson has slowly begun to find his identity on the basketball court.
In the past two games, the junior forward has scored 30 points, making 11-of-18 attempts from the field, including two 3s on six attempts.
“My teammates have always been on me, ‘just keep shooting the ball,’ so I have put it on them,” Wesson said. “They have done a great job of boosting my confidence.”
Now Wesson’s role has shifted this season when he is on the court.
As his brother, sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson, averaged 3.8 fouls per game in Big Ten play, fouling out of four of his past 10 games, and sophomore forward Kyle Young was sidelined due to injury, Andre Wesson took more of a prominent role in the post. He is second on the team in rebounding, averaging four per game in Big Ten play.
In Andre Wesson’s past two games against Penn State and Indiana, he has recorded 14 rebounds, more than the previous five games combined.
This change in mentality has affected Wesson’s offense as well, increasing his shooting percentage 5.7 percent from nonconference to conference play.
Holtmann views Wesson as a player who has figured out his role.
“He’s moved into this year where he’s gotten even a better understanding of that: how can he impact the game based on his skills,” Holtmann said.
Wesson’s understanding helped Ohio State to its three-point win against Indiana Sunday.
With senior guard C.J. Jackson on the outside, Wesson faked a screen, cutting through the two defenders to set up a wide-open dunk to give Ohio State its third straight win and its fourth in five games.
Holtmann said this play was specifically set up for Wesson, putting his brother on the 3-point line to distract the Hoosiers from crowding the paint.
According to the head coach, Wesson fit the action required for this play to succeed, looking at what he has done and earning the trust of the coaching staff and the team to go to him with the game on the line.
With what he considered to be a great pass leading to a great finish, the head coach said it happened exactly how he drew it up.
“That’s about a 10 out of 10 and it rarely happens for you as coaches, honestly, where you get exactly late what you are trying to get,” Holtmann said. “It doesn’t happen a lot.”
Wesson said it was a moment he dreamt of, complimenting his teammates for feeding him in the post, setting him up for success, especially on the final play of the game.
He said that each time he scores, he has continued to build confidence and poise to improve upon the Wesson that Holtmann saw in his first season with the Buckeyes.
But to Jackson, this confident and poised Wesson is the player he is used to.
“This is kind of the Andre that I’ve seen since he got here,” Jackson said. “It’s just a matter of him doing it and he’s playing unbelievable for us. We know he is a big key to our team and we are going to need his scoring, his ability to do everything that he does on the court for us.”