JaQuan Lyle Knows He Must Take Over Ohio State at Next Season, A Mindset Chris Paul's Basketball Camp Helped Establish

By Eric Seger on June 30, 2016 at 8:35 am

JaQuan Lyle heard often from Thad Matta, Greg Paulus and the rest of Ohio State's coaching staff last season that the Buckeyes desperately needed him to take over games and be more consistent while they made a late push at a NCAA Tournament bid.

"Even last year, they wanted me to take that role but I didn't know how to," a noticeably slimmer and more toned Lyle said Wednesday at the Schottenstein Center.

Lyle was the lone player on Ohio State's roster last year who could beat his defender 1-on-1 and score consistently but dealt with peaks and valleys his freshman season. One night he scored 18 points, the next, two. Nine and two-point efforts followed a brief 45-point two-game spurt as Big Ten play picked up. It resulted in Lyle finishing fourth on his team in scoring at 11.2 points per game.

Lyle envisions that being different this winter, due in large part to what he learned last weekend at current Los Angeles Clipper Chris Paul's camp in North Carolina.

"I think now I got that year under my belt, I have a lot more experience and I know what to expect," Lyle said. "Coming in every day, I'm the point guard, I've gotta be ready on and off the court. I've gotta lead by example."

Matta laid into Lyle during Ohio State's 27-point loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament in March, fully aware that his program cannot get out of its recent trend south unless he grows up and takes control. A former point guard himself, Paulus knows it too.

"He was a guy that had a good year for us last year, is a guy that got better throughout the year and is a guy that is going to continue to get better as he progresses and matures through the game," Paulus said recently.

“Coming in every day, I'm the point guard, I've gotta be ready on and off the court. I've gotta lead by example.”– JaQuan Lyle

"He’s got a chance to be a heck of a basketball player," Matta said in March, "and it’s my job to get it out of him."

It's Lyle's job too, and he is taking the challenge to heart this summer. The sophomore removed sugar and fast food from his diet and is working tirelessly in the weight room with strength coach Dave Richardson, who called him "the fattest point guard in America."

The result? Lyle trimmed nearly 10 pounds from his frame and now checks in at a lean 211.

"With me, I’m a candy addict. I can eat a big old bag of candy every night and also Cane's is my favorite. I had to cut that out," Lyle said. "The only thing I eat right now is grilled chicken and a side, like a vegetable, broccoli or something, I eat that for dinner and lunch and stuff.

"It was hard to adjust to at first but I’m just doing what I have to do to help the team."

Lyle also received an invitation to Paul's elite guard camp in North Carolina, which he said came from the NBA star himself. Paul remembered watching Lyle beat the AAU team he sponsors in high school, so he made a phone call to Ohio State to extend the invite.

Lyle didn't disappoint last week, either — he crossed up Oklahoma City Thunder guard and 2013 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Victor Oladipo in a game of 1-on-1. Oladipo still won the game 3-2, however, which Lyle said taught him a valuable lesson.

"Just next play mentality. He fell, everybody watching the game went crazy, but he didn’t let that affect him he got right back up hit the shot and won the game," Lyle said. "That’s what really matters. After the play, Chris Paul talked about how when Steph Curry made him fall on the baseline in Los Angeles he’s like, 'it’s not a big deal you’re playing against the best players in the world if you fall, you fall.' You’ve still got to play."

Right now, Lyle's next play is becoming the face of the Ohio State men's basketball program to be that voice, leader and scorer it needed him to be as a freshman.

"At all times I’m trying to prepare for next season," Paul said. "Now that that video is out and everybody knows I was at Chris Paul camp and 'watch out for Ohio State’s point guard and all that stuff.' But at the end of the day, I’m still going to have to come out and play the basketball I play every single night."

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