Ohio State introduced a new men's basketball coach on Monday morning. But one of the biggest pieces of Chris Holtmann's new roster returned many days earlier.
Forward Keita Bates-Diop said after Holtmann's introductory press conference at the Jerome Schottenstein Center that doctors cleared him to resume full basketball activity a few weeks ago. The Buckeyes ruled Bates-Diop out for the remainder of the 2016-17 season in early January with a stress fracture in his leg.
“I'm good. I got cleared a few weeks ago. I'm making my way back,” Bates-Diop said Monday. “I gotta get my conditioning back, obviously, but I've been cleared to play and work out.”
Former coach Thad Matta described Bates-Diop's injury and subsequent surgery as "a punch in the gut" for what became his final Ohio State team, which finished 17-15 and missed the postseason after a loss to Rutgers in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Bates-Diop received a medical redshirt, and thus has two seasons left in Columbus at his disposal.
“I'm operating under that assumption, yes, but I think urgency is a good thing so if I look at it, this year is my last year,” Bates-Diop said. “[Jae'Sean Tate] is my man and we came in at the same time. If I have the same mindset, I think I'll be good.”
Bates-Diop's trying season continued when his brother, Kai, collapsed in cardiac arrest a short time after he was ruled out for the year. With his little brother feeling better and finally being back to 100 percent physically, Bates-Diop now turns his focus to this winter with a new coach. As does his entire team.
“It was rough. It was definitely rough,” Bates-Diop said of the past year. “I think it helped me mentally, though. Not to do things and how to do things in a better way to do things. I think Coach Holtmann will help us do that.”