A Man Can Stand Up

By Johnny Ginter on March 24, 2011 at 1:00p
Gotta make em all

Jon Diebler is, according to Ken Pomeroy, the best offensive player in college basketball. He is hitting an insane 50% of his three point attempts, averaging over 12 points a game, and even making over half of his two point field goals. He is the basketball equivalent of a B-17 bomber, and has on several occasions taken over games entirely by himself. If Ohio State wins a national championship, Jon Diebler will a huge part of the reason why.

I love Jon Diebler.

Now, anyway. Four years ago, though, I hated Jon Diebler with every inch of my being.

I asked myself, how could a kid who was the winner of Mr. Basketball in Ohio, be this bad? How could a kid, who averaged over 41 points per game as a senior, have a field goal percentage of barely 30%? How could a kid, who was the all time scoring leader in Ohio high school basketball history, not even manage to make 29% of his three point attempts?

It was infuriating. The one item that Jon Diebler was tasked with on the 2007-2008 Ohio State men's basketball team was hit threes with semi-regularity, which he utterly failed to do. 166 of his 207 shot attempts were threes. Only 48 actually went in. Of course, exacerbating the problem was that the main scoring threats on the 2007-08 team were a giant, immobile, and heck while we're throwing out adjectives, lazy 7 footer by the name of Kosta Koufos who may or may not have wanted to be actually be there and a guy in Jamar Butler just trying to hold the whole thing together.

Butler actually took more threes than anyone that season, hitting them at a decent 38% clip. Still, Jamar's semi-success in this regard only served to make Diebler look worse; every brick put up by Diebler could've been a higher percentage shot in Jamar's hands. That team would eventually go on to cruise through the lesser of the March Madnesses and Jamar Butler would point out that "this is what happens when you put an NCAA tournament team in the NIT."

Maybe. But in that team's 13 losses, Jon Diebler's complete ineptitude was mind boggling: he made 15 threes in 73 attempts, good for 20.5%.

"...this was the last straw upon the back of many a moderate man."

In the next two seasons Jon Diebler would enter into a kind of basketball purgatory. His shooting got better, much better, but he was still far too inconsistent to be anything more than another cog in the machine. There were games where he would show flashes of brilliance; 27 points and 7 for 10 from three in a win against Iowa in 2008, a similar game later on in the season in a loss to Northwestern, 22 points and 6 for 12 from three in a win against Florida State in the following season, and so on. But there were also games like the loss against Purdue in 2009, where he went 2 for 10 from three and scored all of 6 points, or the loss to Minnesota in the following season, when he went 1 for 8 from three and scored 7.

It would be wrong to characterize Diebler's play as "bad" during his sophomore and junior seasons; he hit over 40% of his threes, averaged roughly 12 points per contest, and was generally among the best free throw shooters on the team. But with the emergence of classmate Evan Turner, Jon Diebler found himself thrust into even more of a supporting role. In fact, despite playing dramatically more minutes, Diebler actually took a lower percentage of his team's shots while on the floor as a sophomore and junior than he did as a freshman. It seemed like "space-eater and sometime deep threat" was going to to be Diebler's MO for the rest of his career.

Then the last 7 games of his junior season happened.

"Just like the sun coming up yonder out of the sea, pushing rays of light ahead of it."

In 6 of those 7 games, Jon Diebler played out of his mind. In those six games, he hit 47% of his threes, averaged 18 points a game, shot over 50% overall, and looked like a completely different player than the guy who just a few years beforehand was making roughly the same percentage of threes at Matt Terwilliger. That seventh game was a killer, though. In it, Diebler went 1 for 7 from three and scored a total of 3 points, as Tennessee edged OSU by three points in the NCAA tourney.

I think the Jon Diebler that we're seeing this year is a guy who isn't going to let that happen again. He is averaging slightly fewer points per game than he was last year (not that you would know it from his games against Penn State and Wisconsin). But by being massively efficient in his game, hitting 50% of his threes and knowing when to let his teammates get him the ball during critical moments in the game, Diebler is now much more than just a cog: he is the dagger in the chest of opponents that OSU fans have always hoped he'd be when he came on campus as a freshman.

So, Mr. Diebler, I salute you sir. You worked yourself to the bone for four years, and in the end have become everything we could've imagined. Thanks for proving me wrong.

"...we fight, we die, for a simple thing. Only that a man can stand up."


Comments Show All Comments

Hopalong's picture

Johnny Tremain FTW!!!

slippy's picture

I thought he evolved into Threebler?  Debo?


I love this team.  I was going to write more about how each player has their role and the chemistry and great and something sappy but I'll save it.  Even with as much as I don't like Lighty, I love this team.  And it wouldn't be the team without all of them.

WilloughbyBuck's picture

Other than missing too many free throws, what do you not like about Lighty ?

elaydin's picture

He shreeks like a girl in the presence of flying graduation caps.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

I think that was Lighty that shrieked. Not Diebler.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

slippy's picture

I'll readily admit that I'm harder on him than almost everyone else.


Missing FTs is a big one.  Missing layups is also a killer - he's missed more layups than anyone I've seen.  He forces more jump shots than the other guards, which is even worse considering the other guys are better shooters (at least Buford and Diebs).  He'll pass up open threes sometimes but will take contested threes, when, outside of the 7/7 game he's been pretty bad from outside the arc down the stretch.  While he gets lots (prob too much) credit for his on-ball defense, his off ball leaves much to be desired (see NW games, got lazy a lot and beat on backdoor cuts.  Wisconsin loss he was too quick to help and left guys open for threes.  There are more examples these are just off the top of my head).


Having said that, I'd still rather him at the line than Dallas.  He doesn't force it as much as Tank, and still plays better off ball defense than Tank as well.  He's still over 40% from three (but that was mainly from the beginning of the season - the last 15 games before the tourney he was 10/36 = 27% = bad). 


But so far the pressure has not gotten to him and he's 9/10 in the tourney.


I think a lot of it has carried over from him in the past - he was just never that good of an all around basketball player.  I think this is his best year.


I also tend to have irrational dislikes of players sometimes for no reason.  I think for him it was rational but I tend to be harder on guys on the teams I like than outisders may be.

ERIC OSU's picture

So the real question is....... does this make Thad Matta, Ash Ketchum?

BED's picture

+1 internet for you, sir.

The Ohio State University, College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2006
The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Class of 2009

btalbert25's picture

Diebler is a great story.  Even last year you never knew what to expect out of him.  This year his D has improved vastly.  He actually can drive to the hoop too.  He has really turned himself into a great player and not just a shooter. 

yrro's picture

Every time he successfully drives to the hoop I just assume it was because the defender fainted from shock.

Chris Lauderback's picture

I've been a Diebs critic for a long time myself, mostly because one dimensional players have never tickled my fancy but he has put together a very nice season.

I give credit to Diebs for expanding his game by at least showing the desire to take a few dribbles toward the hoop instead of standing stationary behind the arc. The increased "show" of possible penetration has just barely decreased the percent of 3FGA he took versus total FGA from his junior to senior seasons (81.6% of shots were 3FGA as a Jr, 79.7% as a Sr.), but I do think the increased desire to make a move to the hoop, even he doesn't shoot, has given him a little more space to operate behind the arc. His 3FG% percentage certainly seems to support such a notion as he's hitting 50% as a Sr. after hitting 42% as a Jr.

The other thing I give him credit for is how he's again become a part of the full flow of the offense which is reflected in his assist numbers going from 1.5 asst/game as a Jr. up to 2.4 this year. It's been documented that this increase is pretty much the result of finding Sully on the low block. That inside/out game he's helped develop has been crucial to our success this year. While actually looking to do more with the ball, he's also maintained his turnovers at 1.0 per game. That's pretty good stuff.

Tony's picture

Due to 3bler's resurgence after such a terrible showing his first year, he has evolved into my favorite Ohio State basketball player of all time. He is, to put it succintly, the man.

gravey's picture

Remember folks calling him  "On Eibler"...cuz he had no J and played no D..?

I commend him for working on his game and Matta for not screwing him up, nor giving up on him.  The game is intensely psychological and a lot of high school legends never recover from a poor season.