Ohio State then-redshirt senior forward Makayla Waterman (24) passes the ball up court in the second half of the game against Rutgers March 3. Ohio State lost 66-56. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Managing Editor for Multimedia

Makayla Waterman wrapped up a five-year Ohio State women’s basketball career this past spring, but she didn’t stay away for long.

The former Buckeye forward returned to the program in mere months, as an NCAA waiver granted her permission to join her former head coach Kevin McGuff’s staff as a student assistant in October.

“I am definitely starting to see different sides of basketball,” Waterman said. “It’s a good intro into what I want to do. I want to coach obviously, so this is a good start.”

Since she was young, Waterman said she wanted to coach collegiately, and now she gets to do so for the team for which she played. She started her master’s degree in sports coaching and will gain a different kind of experience with the Buckeyes this season.  

Waterman is familiar with being a team leader. In her final year playing for Ohio State, the Buckeye roster featured four graduate transfers and three freshmen, making her the most experienced player on the team. 

She uses that same experience and her relationship with McGuff to get the head coach’s point across to a team with eight new players in the program.

“I’m pretty good at translating his words to the new players,” Waterman said. “I just got done playing, so I can relate to them a lot more than some of the older coaches who haven’t played for a while.”

Transitioning from player to coach, Waterman said one of the biggest differences is the hours she puts in. She said that as a player, she would normally come to practice, then head home. As a coach, she’s working before, during and after practice. She said coming into the facility is more fun as a coach because she gets to see everything that goes on that one might not get to see behind the scenes.

With some of Waterman’s old teammates still on the team, they have had to adjust to having her as a coach and no longer a teammate. Sophomore guard Janai Crooms said it was strange playing without Waterman on the court with them.

“She was that leader that you wanted to play with,” Crooms said. “She’s always trying to help me improve my game.”  

Waterman said it was odd to step into the gym as a coach at the team’s first exhibition against Urbana in early November. It was her first game in a different role in the Schottenstein Center, but she said she is excited for more games so she can be there for the players in a different way. 

Waterman said she hopes to become an assistant coach after her time at Ohio State. For now, she said she will remain focused on learning from her experience with the Buckeyes both on and off the court. 

“She helps them with what’s expected around here, and really the points I’m trying to get across to them,” McGuff said.