Just over a month after the abrupt end to the Buckeye basketball season, coach Chris Holtmann spent more than an hour discussing his team, the program and more with reporters on a conference call Tuesday afternoon. A lot has happened since COVID-19 halted the season. On a positive note, one of the top graduate transfers on the market joined the Buckeyes. Seth Towns, a Columbus native and Northland High School product, was the player of the year in the Ivy League two years ago after averaging 16 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game for Harvard in 2017-18. He has not played since then due to a knee injury. The 6'7 forward will have two years of eligibility with the Buckeyes and his transfer became official Tuesday, just hours before Holtmann's chat with the media.
"Seth is obviously a mature young man having graduated from Harvard...That is a tremendous honor and a tremendous accomplishment,” Holtmann said on the conference call. "His shooting is big for us. He has to get to a place of full health. Provided that happens, we are very excited about what he will bring in the next couple years."
Two other transfers, both point guards, have come to Ohio State as well. Jimmy Sotos of Bucknell will have to sit out next season before having one year with the Buckeyes and Abel Porter out of Utah State will be part of the team next season, after his graduate transfer. Neither addition is official yet so Holtmann did not specifically discuss their arrivals.
The new players were needed because freshman guard D.J. Carton and sophomore guard Luther Muhammed both elected to transfer away from the Buckeyes. Holtmann indicated that both left on good terms and wished both players well.
"D.J. and Luther, I don't really want to get into specifics," Holtmann said. "If a young man says, 'this is what I want' and you don't feel it can be best for him or for the program then I think naturally those honest conversations are going to happen. It's not a reflection on the young man, it's the reality...You can't start 10 guys, you can't play four point guards at one time, you can't play 10 guys 40 minutes. It's the reality and those are terrific young men and they're going to do well wherever they go."
We still don't know where Carton will go, but Muhammed announced Tuesday night that he is heading to Arizona State. In addition to those two, Ohio State lost freshman Alonzo Gaffney, who is pursuing a professional career.
Big man Kaleb Wesson is also turning pro. A year ago he declared and chose to return to Ohio State, but as expected, Holtmann confirmed that this time around, the junior who led the Buckeyes in scoring, rebounding and 3-point field goal percentage is gone for good. There was a bit of news, in that point guard C.J. Walker has also put his name in for the draft, but Holtmann said Walker is just interested in getting an evaluation and is planning on returning next season. As for Wesson, Holtmann said the program will help him along in his journey into the professional ranks. Heading into next season, though, Wesson's absence creates a significant hole for the Buckeyes that will need to be filled.
"We're going to have to look at how we do things," Holtmann said of playing without his second team All Big Ten big man. "We're going to be playing differently offensively and defensively...Listen, I get it. It's a major question mark for us moving forward---how we're going to answer (for Wesson's departure.) He did a lot for us offensively and defensively."
The Buckeyes will have experience returning down low with senior to be Kyle Young and Holtmann said he's excited about the future of E.J. Liddell, who finished his freshman year on a high note, playing some of his best basketball down the stretch.
Liddell's play late in the season was not unlike the team as a whole. Ohio State finished 21-10 overall and 11-9 in Big Ten play. This, after opening league play at 2-6 and losing 6 of 7 in January. Holtmann's team rallied to win 9 of its final 12 and headed to the post season with momentum and confidence. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic ended the college basketball season before this Buckeye team could see if the hot finish was going to translate into success in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. It has left Holtmann thinking about what could have been.
"Honestly I've thought about it more in the last couple weeks than in the first few weeks afterwards," Holtmann said of the season ending without a trip into the Big Dance. "I think I just missed it and I think some of it came about from watching some of our games in the last month and a half. I was just really excited and in some cases, curious as to what we could be. We had our flaws, I'm not delusional but I do think we had a good way about us. I've thought about it a lot more the last couple weeks...I've thought a lot about what it could have been."
If you're a Buckeye hoops fan, there was a lot more good information on the call. Holtmann talked at length about next season. He spent time talking about the development of returning players like Duane Washington, Walker, Liddell, Young, Justin Ahrens and Ibrahima Diallo, the return of Musa Jallow, the plans for Cal transfer Justice Sueing and more. He also discussed what it's been like trying to coach a team during a pandemic. It's a long call, but it featured some informative and light hearted nuggets. If you want to listen, you can check it out below.