The first thing you notice about Ohio State junior center Kaleb Wesson these days is that there's a lot less of Kaleb Wesson to notice.
Thirty-four pounds less, to be exact.
Wesson, who's always battled his weight and conditioning issues at OSU, looks like someone has transplanted his head onto another player's body as the Buckeyes get ready to begin practice for a season they hope reaches beyond the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State has talent, depth to reach Sweet Sixteen
That's where each of the first two years of the Chris Holtmann era ended, and that was just fine.
Beyond fine, actually, given the paucity of depth and talent Holtmann inherited while transitioning in for Thad Matta.
But now the expectations and everything about Ohio State basketball is much bigger and broader.
Except for Kaleb Wesson, that is.
"I ended last season at 289 and I weighed myself today and I was 255," Wesson said on Tuesday. "I'm not as heavy as I was, but I'm just as strong."
OSU hopes so, because Wesson's girth has been a considerable weapon for him in this first two seasons.
He led the Buckeyes with averages of 14.6 points and 6.9 rebounds last year, but was often in foul trouble and left his teammates hanging down the stretch with a two-week suspension.
Wesson agreed with NBA input he return to Ohio State
OSU never specified the reason, but the length of Wesson's absence matched perfectly with the penalty for a second violation of the school's substance abuse policy.
He briefly put his name in consideration for the NBA Draft last April, but said that was just to get feedback from scouts.
"I never really gave leaving much serious thought," he said. "I knew what they were going to say and I pretty much agreed with every word."
The message, after workouts in Boston and Atlanta..."Playing in the NBA at 290 pounds is nearly impossible."
"I think he’s shown tremendous discipline in terms of what he’s wanted his body to look like,” Holtmann said. “I think the challenge for him will be to continue to move in that direction as we get throughout the season.”
New recruits give Holtmann much more depth
Coaching the Buckeyes without a backup center to spell Wesson, and babying them through the lack of a reliable point guard -- as Holtmann has had to do during his tenure in Columbus -- shouldn't be an issue this season.
Freshmen E.J. Liddell and Alonzo Gaffney will lend serious help in the post, and freshman D.J. Carton and Florida State transfer C.J. Walker should solidify OSU's previously-shaky ballhandling.
Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington Jr. had solid freshman seasons and should build OSU's backcourt depth.
Senior Andre Wesson and juniors Musa Jallow and Kyle Young will also be part of the rotation.
OSU plays an Oct. 30 exhibition at home against Cedarville University and begins the regular season by hosting Cincinnati at 8:30 p.m. Oct. 6 (FS1).
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