Mike Conley, Kelsey Mitchell Among Ohio State Athletes Back in Action As NBA, WNBA and Other Professional Sports Resume

By Dan Hope on August 1, 2020 at 7:15 am
Mike Conley defending Lonzo Ball
Ashley Landis/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

While we still don’t know yet if and when college sports will resume this fall, most of America’s professional sports are now back underway.

The NBA’s restart officially began on Thursday when former Ohio State guard Mike Conley and the Utah Jazz played the New Orleans Pelicans in the league’s first game since March 11. The NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs are set to begin on Saturday. MLB and the WNBA both began their seasons last week. The MLS’ return-to-play tournament is ongoing, while former Ohio State soccer star Nichelle Prince helped lead the Houston Dash to an NWSL Challenge Cup title last weekend.

You can also find numerous Buckeyes playing professional golf – including two on the PGA Tour – and several Ohio State alumni playing in professional lacrosse leagues.

While we await the hopeful return of Ohio State football, other college sports and the NFL this fall, we take a look at some of the Buckeyes you can watch (or could have watched over the last couple weeks) across a wide range of professional sports – given that Ohio State has 36 varsity sports teams, there’s probably some other alumni currently competing professionally that we’re missing here, too – right now.


Mike Conley, Utah Jazz

Probably the most well-known Buckeye playing in a professional sport right now – given that NFL season hasn’t started yet and that D’Angelo Russell, Evan Turner and the Minnesota Timberwolves were too far down in the standings to qualify for the NBA’s return to play – Conley is the starting point guard for the Jazz, who will be playing into at least late August as they’ve already clinched a berth in the playoffs.

Conley, who scored 20 points to help lead the Jazz to a 106-104 win in their first game in the bubble on Thursday, has averaged 14 points and 4.3 assists in 42 games this season.

Keita Bates-Diop, Denver Nuggets

Traded to the Nuggets in the same February deal that sent Turner to the Timberwolves, Bates-Diop played in only two games for Denver before the season was paused. He isn’t likely to play a big role in the season restart, either, but he is inside the bubble with the Nuggets, who have also clinched a berth in the playoffs, in which they are currently in line to be the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.


Kelsey Mitchell and Stephanie Mavunga, Indiana Fever

Both drafted by the Indiana Fever in 2018, Mitchell and Mavunga remain teammates entering their third season in the WNBA. 

Mitchell, a four-time All-American at Ohio State and the NCAA’s second-leading all-time scorer, currently leads the Fever, who are 1-2, with 51 points through three games. She was named earlier this week by fellow WNBA player Dewanna Bonner as one of the league’s five best young guns.

Mavunga has played in two of the first three games for the Fever and has scored 10 points with 14 rebounds.

Jantel Lavender is sidelined for the 2020 WNBA season after undergoing foot surgery in July, so Mitchell and Mavunga are currently the only two Buckeyes on WNBA rosters.


Ryan Dzingel and Max McCormick, Carolina Hurricanes

Three former Buckeyes are currently inside the NHL’s bubbles, and two of them are with the Hurricanes, who are set to play the New York Rangers in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers at noon Saturday.

Dzingel, who scored 29 points in 64 games in his first season with the Hurricanes after finishing last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, is on the bubble for a spot in the Hurricanes’ playoff forward rotation but was on their third line for their exhibition game against the Washington Capitals earlier this week. McCormick, who spent the regular season playing for the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, isn’t expected to be in the lineup but is on the Hurricanes’ 31-man postseason roster.

Ryan Dzingel
Ryan Dzingel and the Carolina Hurricanes are set to take the ice on Saturday in the first game of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. (Photo: Jean-Yves Ahern – USA TODAY Sports)

Matt Bartkowski, Minnesota Wild

Bartkowski, like McCormick with the Hurricanes, is on the Wild’s postseason roster but isn’t likely to see much playing time, if at all, in the playoffs. He did not see any regular-season playing time for the Wild, as he’s spent most of the past two years playing for the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa.

Nevertheless, the veteran defenseman will be with the Wild as they begin their quest to make a postseason run on Sunday at 10:30 p.m., when they play the first game of their Stanley Cup Qualifiers series against the Vancouver Canucks.


Travis Lakins, Baltimore Orioles (MLB)

The only Buckeye currently on an MLB roster, Lakins is in his second season in the big leagues and his first with the Orioles after appearing in 16 games with the Boston Red Sox in 2019. In the opening week of this year’s truncated season, Lakins has appeared in two games for the Orioles and is coming off one of the best performances of his young MLB career on Thursday night, when the relief pitcher threw a career-high 2.2 shutout innings with three strikeouts against the New York Yankees.

Drew Rucinski, NC Dinos (KBO)

While just about every sport in America was shut down, the Korea Baseball Organization struck a deal with ESPN to air its games in the United States beginning in early May. That thrust Rucinski into the spotlight as the opening-day starting pitcher for the Dinos in the first-ever KBO game broadcast on ESPN.

Rucinski has gone on to have an excellent 2020 season – his second in the KBO – as the former Buckeye is currently tied for the league lead in wins with a 10-1 record while he also ranks in the league’s top four in both ERA (2.36) and strikeouts (88). With Rucinski leading the way, the Dinos currently hold the KBO’s best record (45-22-2 as of Friday).


Roger Espinoza, Sporting KC

A starting midfielder for Sporting KC, Espinoza played in all five games of his club’s run in the MLS is Back tournament before its elimination in the quarterfinals. He played all but 32 minutes in those five games and scored one goal on eight shots.

The regular-season schedule that will follow the MLS is Back tournament has not yet been announced, but Espinoza will be expected to continue playing a key role once those games resume. 

Roger Espinoza
Former Ohio State men's soccer star is a top midfielder for MLS' Sporting KC. (Photo: Jasen Vinlove – USA TODAY Sports)

Matt Lampson, Columbus Crew

A Hilliard, Ohio native in his first season with his hometown club, Lampson is currently the Crew’s third-string goalkeeper and did not see any action in the MLS is Back tournament. 


Nichelle Prince, Houston Dash

As aforementioned, Prince helped lead her squad to a title in the NWSL’s own return-to-play tournament, as the former Ohio State women’s soccer star played in six out of the Dash’s seven games with three starts in their run to the NWSL Challenge Cup title – which came just one month after she suffered the heartbreak of her father passing away.

Because the NWSL canceled its regular season and traditional postseason, the Dash will have bragging rights as champions until 2021.

Nichelle Prince
Nichelle Prince was a starting forward for the Houston Dash in their run to the NWSL Challenge Cup title. (Photo: Jeffrey Swinger – USA TODAY Sports)

Lindsey Agnew, North Carolina Courage

Agnew, in her fourth year out of Ohio State, played in just one game for nine minutes before the Courage were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the NWSL Challenge Cup.

Devon Kerr, Washington Spirit

A backup goalie for her team, Kerr did not see any game action for the Spirit before they were also eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Challenge Cup.


Ryan Armour, PGA Tour

As we wrote about last month ahead of his return to Ohio to play in the Workday Charity Open, Armour scored back-to-back top-10 finishes for the first time in his PGA Tour career earlier this summer, when he tied for sixth at the Travelers Championship and fourth at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Since then, the former Ohio State golfer has fallen into a slump, missing his last three cuts, but Armour is still ranked 85th in the FedEx Cup standings, with three total top-10s for the year.

Bo Hoag, PGA Tour

In his first full season on the PGA Tour, Hoag has made the cut in 12 out of 19 events and has earned four top-20 finishes, including last weekend when he tied for 12th at the 3M Open. Hoag is currently ranked 119th in the FedEx Cup standings, six spots ahead of the 125-man cutoff to make the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs and play in The Northern Trust later this month.

Bo Hoag
Former Ohio State golfer Bo Hoag is in his first full season on the PGA Tour. (Photo: Raymond Carlin III – USA TODAY Sports)

Emma Jandel, Jessica Porvasnik and Rachel Rohanna, Symetra Tour

While Ohio State’s only current LPGA Tour member, Jaclyn Lee, has yet to play in a tournament this year after missing time last year with a wrist injury, three former Buckeyes are currently playing on the Symetra Tour, the developmental tour for the LPGA.

Rohanna, who has finished in the top 30 in each of her first two events this year, is currently ranked 28th in the Symetra Tour’s Volvik Race to the Card standings, the best of any of the three Ohio State alumnae currently playing on the tour.


Jack Jasinski and Ben Randall (MLL)

Two former members of Nick Myers’ Ohio State men’s lacrosse team played in the one-week 2020 season for Major League Lacrosse, America’s longest-running professional lacrosse league, which wrapped up last weekend.

Jasinski, a midfielder for the Denver Outlaws, scored nine points – the fourth-most on his team – in their five-game season, which culminated with a loss to the Boston Cannons in the league championship game. Randall’s New York Lizards lost all five of their games during the one-week season in Annapolis, Maryland, but he did lead the league with 10 caused turnovers.

Dominique Alexander, Tyler Pfister, Jake Withers, Jesse King and Kevin Buchanan (PLL)

Five other former Ohio State men’s lacrosse players are currently playing in the Premier Lacrosse League, a newer professional league that launched in 2019 as a direct competitor to the MLL. Like the MLL, the PLL is playing a condensed 2020 season that started July 25 and will conclude Aug. 9, with all games being played in Salt Lake City.

Alexander and Pfister both play for the Archers, who are 3-0 going into the final game of the group stage (Sunday at noon) of the PLL Championship Series. King plays for the Chrome, who went 3-1 in group stage play. Buchanan’s Chaos and Withers’ Waterdogs are both 0-3 going into their head-to-head matchup at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

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