Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann met with the media for approximately 30 minutes on Monday afternoon to preview the upcoming basketball season, which tips off against Robert Morris on Nov. 7.
The following is a bullet-point recap of what Holtmann had to say:
- On sixth-year senior forward Justice Sueing’s progress in his return from an abdominal injury: “I think Justice looks great.” Said he’s anxious to get back out there and feels 100 percent after missing all but two games last season.
- Holtmann on the 2022 recruiting class, which was widely considered the best haul of his tenure: “I think we have four freshman who are all going to play a role this year.”
- Holtmann said there is going to be some “head-scratching moments” with freshmen Brice Sensabaugh, Roddy Gayle, Bruce Thornton and Felix Okpara, but they’re “excited about the potential of that group, for sure.”
- “I’ve not coached a team that is going to rely on four freshmen as much as this group is going to.”
- Holtmann said Ohio State’s recent recruiting success has “been a collaborative work” among the staff. Added that the recent trend of sending players to the NBA has played a “major role,” as well. “It’s clear this class on campus and the one we hope to sign here in a few weeks is the best it’s been.”
- “We’re still defining what our group is going to be.” Added the key to success will be staying healthy.
- Holtmann said they have not been good enough defensively the last two seasons. “A little more athleticism, a little more versatility and a little more length at the rim were all things we needed to address.”
- Holtmann believes this year’s team will be more balanced offensively than last season when NBA Draft picks E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham dominated in that area. “We do not have the 19-point scoring like E.J. was.”
- Holtmann said he doesn’t need a team full of glue guys, but “it’s good the guys recognize their value in that area.” Said he’d like to have some players step up and be a leader offensively and defensively.
- On the preseason trip to the Bahamas: “Having two games that tested us in certain ways was maybe the most important thing.” Felt that gave them a real idea of what they have.
- This year’s team will be “four guys around one big guy” this year, as opposed to last year when Liddell was their best player at power forward.
- Holtmann said Sueing will be a team captain again this year, though they haven’t told the team or revealed the others.
- “I think you have to normalize struggle for young people when they’re doing something hard.” Said you’re setting them up for failure if you don’t. “The good ones figure out how to respond the right way.”
- On West Virginia transfer guard Sean McNeil: “I think he’s been a consistent storer in a terrific program for a couple of years.” Said he’s someone who can score from anywhere on the court and is bigger than most people think.
- Holtmann said Thornton and Oklahoma State transfer guard/forward Isaac Likekele will see the floor at the same time. “They go at it in practice. They’re both really physical guys … For us to be at our best, they’re going to have to play together.”
- On Wright State transfer guard Tanner Holden: “He’s been as consistent a worker as we’ve had on our team.” Said he’s a really good rebounder and scorer inside the three-point line.
- On Sensabaugh: “He’s tremendously gifted offensively.” Said he moves exceptionally well for his size. “The biggest challenge for him is understanding all of the other elements.” Said the next two months will be especially important for him.”
- Holtmann credited top assistant Jake Diebler’s work ethic. “He understands Ohio State, understands the culture of our program.”
Holtmann said his past experiences with NBA superstar LeBron James have been “phenomenal,” but he declined to discuss his visit for the Notre Dame game since the Buckeyes are recruiting his son, Bronny James.
- On balancing the transfer portal and recruiting high school players: “Obviously freshmen are going to take a little more time than a guy who is a little more seasoned.”
- Added he has conversations with the staff and athletic director Gene Smith and they’ve decided as a group that they want it to be mostly freshmen with some transfers here and there.
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