When Ohio State men’s basketball fell to Maryland in a double-digit loss on its home floor in January, its four-game losing streak would mark the longest skid in the Chris Holtmann era.
However, that wasn’t the worst loss of the night for the program.
Junior forward Kyle Young took a hard fall in the game that yielded a stress fracture in his right leg. Despite returning to action after four games, the 6-foot-8 forward was never the same.
After playing hurt in all 14 games of the season’s final two months, Young has been afforded by the offseason the chance to fully heal ahead of a year when he wants to display a repertoire of skills that he hasn’t shown in his first two.
“I think I’m back to fully healed now. I’m fully cleared to do everything,” Young said. “I took some time off during May – went through rehab probably that whole month, and just worked on basic skill stuff, fundamental stuff while my body was healing.”
The one-time No. 2 recruit in Ohio and a top 100 national prospect, Young played only 8.6 minutes per game as a freshman in Chris Holtmann’s inaugural year with the Buckeyes two seasons ago.
This past season, Young entered as the program’s starting power forward, averaging 7.3 points and 4.8 rebounds before his midseason injury. Young had four double-digit scoring performances and started 12 of the first 17 games.
Following his four-game absence, Young proved his importance to the team when his February return helped lift the Buckeyes to a tight home win against Penn State. Prior to that win, Ohio State lost six of its last eight games.
However, Young said he knew something wasn’t right.
“I had those two weeks off. I was feeling really good, so we made a collective decision that I wanted to play again,” Young said. “That was against Penn State, my first game back, but I think I might’ve jumped the gun a little bit too early, so that’s why the irritation just kept coming back throughout the season.”
Young would start only two more games for the duration of the season, averaging 4.4 points in the final 14 games, in which he failed to score more than eight in any game. Young had eight total points in the Buckeyes’ four postseason games, and was held scoreless in both of Ohio State’s NCAA Tournament matchups.
Still, Young finished the year second on the team in rebound average (4.4) and total blocks (16).
The Massillon, Ohio, native said the injury hindered his explosiveness and ability to jump, but added that he wouldn’t sit out the rest of the season while his teammates were on the floor.
With Young injured, the Buckeyes had no regular rotation players above 6-foot-6 besides junior forward Kaleb Wesson, which meant senior forward Andre Wesson had to move down to the post for stretches.
Wesson said even when Young is playing through injury he still has an impact on the court.
“Kyle brings a lot of energy to the game just with his athleticism and his willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team win,” Wesson said. “I mean it’s something that we really need, and that’s why we love KY.”
Though he said he evaluates his performance based on whatever he can do to help the team win, Young said he is looking to bring more than just hustle and energy to the court in his third season with the Buckeyes.
During rehab, Young said one of the only things he could do was work on his outside shot, which he said was an element of his game he was more comfortable with in high school.
Though he shot a 3-pointer in only six games this past season, going 1-for-6 on his attempts,Young will look to add a pick-and-pop 3-point shot to his game next season. Young said he loves to shoot them, but didn’t feel it was part of his game last year.
Both Wesson and Young have placed emphasis on improving their 3-point shots this offseason, and it is no secret why.
Ohio State, which finished No. 11 in Big Ten scoring offense at 69.1 points per game, will need more scoring, and particularly 3-point shooting. The Buckeyes will be without their best 3-point shooter from a season ago, C.J. Jackson, whose 62 3-pointers were 21 more than the next best on the team.
Young said he is also working on shoring up his post game and the ability to take opponents to the basket off the dribble.
Limited by playing time his first year and injury the second, Young knows he has to be able to stay on the court in order to show off more range.
“I’m just praying on 100 percent full health throughout this whole next year,” Young said. “No setbacks.”