This past year, Kaleb Wesson returned from a summer of workouts in front of NBA scouts and personnel with a list of small things to improve about his game.
The list was long enough to keep him out of the professional ranks for one more year, but the small changes made a big impact on the junior forward’s play, as Wesson logged his most impressive collegiate campaign to earn 46 percent of the vote for best male athlete.
Wesson led the team in scoring and rebounding for the second straight season, putting up 14 points and 9.3 boards while leading Ohio State to wins against four top 10 opponents before the end of the COVID-19-shortened year. It was enough to garner Wesson a first-time spot on the All-Big Ten second team.
Along with his skills, Wesson underwent a physical transformation, which served as the first indication that he had returned to Columbus, Ohio, with a different level of intensity.
The 6-foot-9 big man trimmed off more than 30 pounds in the offseason, arriving for fall workouts with a new physique that wowed teammates and head coach Chris Holtmann alike.
The increased mobility allowed Wesson to play inside and out more than ever before, and he routinely made opposing teams pay with a much-improved shooting touch and deft passing ability.
Wesson increased his 3-point shooting percentage by nearly 8 percent, hitting from beyond the arc at a .425 clip to lead the team.
In what might have been his best performance of the season, Wesson drained 4-of-6 3s in a 106-74 demolition of Penn State Dec. 7. Wesson turned in a season-high 28 points –– four shy of a new career-high mark.
Perhaps a gutsier highlight came in hostile territory during a Feb. 4 matchup with rival Michigan. Wesson scored 23 of the Buckeyes’ 61 points while his teammates shot less than 35 percent in a back-and-forth affair with the Wolverines.
The Buckeyes leaned on Wesson’s production as they eked out a 3-point win that came down to the wire. Aside from Wesson’s scoring, he corralled 12 boards and didn’t commit a turnover in the win.
In fact, the improvements in Wesson’s rebounding and defensive efforts this season might have been the most revelatory in his game. Wesson posted nearly twice as many double-digit rebounding nights as he did in his first two seasons combined, including an 18-board affair against Nebraska Feb. 27.
Wesson recorded 21 blocks in each of his first two seasons, but he equaled that total just more than midway through his junior campaign en route to a career-high 31 on the year.
More than blocks and boards, Wesson’s exploits on defense included taking momentum-changing charges and shutting down the opposition’s big man.
Minnesota sophomore center Daniel Oturu, No. 2 in the conference with 20.1 points per game, averaged just 12.5 in two meetings with Wesson this year. Maryland sophomore forward Jalen Smith ran through opponents to the tune of 15.5 points per game this season, but in two games against Wesson, he averaged single digits.
In Ohio State’s final five games, Wesson held the opposing team’s primary big to less than six points per game.
During a season that saw suspensions, fractured orbitals, apendectomies and leaves of absence, causing Holtmann to employ seven different starting lineups, Wesson was an iron man. He was the lone Buckeye to start each game for Ohio State over the course of the year.
For the second straight offseason, Wesson has declared for the NBA Draft, though he has the option to return for his senior year until June 3.
He might not have been quite ready for the next step a year ago, but when Wesson steps in front of scouts this time, they’ll be looking at a draft-worthy prospect.