The question wasn’t even finished being asked to Kam Williams before Ohio State’s fifth-year senior guard started his response. Williams was that confident.
“Absolutely not,” Williams said when he was asked Thursday if the Buckeyes’ lack of depth was a concern for the players. “We have supreme confidence in the seven, eight guys that we have and we feel like if we all can gel then we don’t need anyone else to come in the circle.”
Fair enough. But the reality is, while it may not be a concern for the Ohio State players — they probably shouldn’t be expected to say otherwise — it’s a bit problematic for Chris Holtmann and the rest of the Buckeyes’ coaching staff.
Ohio State has just nine recruited scholarship players on its roster for the 2017–18 season. But perhaps even more troubling, only two of those nine — Williams and C.J. Jackson — are guards. Musa Jallow, the Buckeyes’ latest verbal commitment who will reclassify and be eligible next season, can also play guard in addition to the wing.
Jallow will help, but here are still some questions about depth in the Buckeyes’ backcourt. However, Williams said he’s up for the challenge if it ends up being just him and Jackson as the only two guards playing the bulk of the minutes.
“I feel like me and C.J. are already well-conditioned and it’s only going to get better from here on out,” he said. “Even with just two guards, I feel like me and him can do damage if we have to play 40 minutes, 38 minutes.”
“I have confidence in him and I have confidence in me that we will be able to get that done.”
Jackson started nine games at point guard last season for Ohio State; Williams started 29 times as the Buckeyes’ off-guard. The two will almost assuredly be Ohio State’s starting backcourt in Year 1 under Holtmann.
Former walk-on Joey Lane is the only other guard listed on the Buckeyes’ roster. Holtmann hinted Jae’Sean Tate could spend some time running the point and Williams said he’s spent all summer working on his point guard skills in case he’s needed. There really aren’t a ton of options and that’s where there’s concern.
But Williams is confident he can get the job done with Jackson.
“I’m excited for that challenge because C.J. is going to need some help because we’re short on bodies,” Williams said.
There may be one additional option for Ohio State. It could potentially add another player in this 2017 class in four-star guard Eric Ayala. Ayala is reportedly considering a reclassification — like Jallow did — that would allow him to enroll in time for next season. That decision will be made at the end of July. The Buckeyes offered Ayala last month but Syracuse is considered the favorite. If Ohio State can pull that off, it’d obviously be a huge boost.
Right now, though, it’s just Jackson, Williams and, to an extent, Jallow. There will be growing pains, but the fifth-year senior said he’s up for the challenge.
“No matter what, we’re still going to have to play,” Williams said. “The way the core guys who are 10 toes in, we know where we finished and we aren’t happy with that at all. Even with the coaching change, we were still getting it in on our own because we obviously know what each guy is capable of and we obviously know we haven’t been playing to the best of our ability. We know that 100 percent so we tried to get in the gym as much as possible because we don’t like the feeling we’ve had these last couple years."