While all of Ohio State’s men’s basketball players have been participating in offseason workouts as they prepare for the 2018-19 season ahead, Musa Jallow had a unique opportunity earlier this offseason to put his skills to the test against some of the best young basketball players in the country.
The rising Ohio State sophomore participated in the USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team training camp from May 31 through June 2 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he was one of 32 athletes that competed for an opportunity to play for Team USA in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship.
Jallow didn’t ultimately make the team, which dominated its competition en route to winning the tournament last week, but he is nonetheless appreciative that he had the opportunity to give it his best shot.
"It was a great experience," Jallow said while meeting with reporters at Ohio State on Wednesday. "Any chance you have to put the USA on your chest, it’s just, I’m so grateful for it and I was excited that I got the opportunity. Unfortunate that I didn’t make the team, but still a great experience, had a lot of fun with the guys and the coaches there."
The opportunity to try out for the U18 team was unique for Jallow, who was originally in the high school class of 2018 but reclassified to the class of 2017 to enroll at Ohio State last summer, in that he was the only participant in the training camp who has already played at the collegiate level.
Even though he didn’t make the squad, which was led by Kansas coach Bill Self, Jallow felt the year of experience he already has as a Buckeye prepared him better to compete at the national team level than he would have been coming out of high school.
"Coach Self had the practices at a pretty high pace, which is how we practice here, and it’s a lot different than high school or AAU practice, and so some of the guys, they weren’t ready for that, and it took a couple times for them to pick up on the different offensive movements and defensive movements and stuff like that," Jallow said. "So I was quicker to act on that stuff and pick it up and kind of coach the guys with it."
Jallow said his coaches at the training camp, who also included Dayton’s Anthony Grant and Wake Forest’s Danny Manning, told Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann – who also attended the tryouts – that they were impressed with the preparation Jallow came in with.
"One thing that the coaches told Coach Holtmann about is that they loved how ready I was to lead the group, and how I was able to pick up the things that they were coaching a little bit, just because I’ve been through it and I had the experience over the other guys," Jallow said.
While Jallow has already played a full season of college basketball, the rest of the players who attended the training camp not only included players who will be incoming freshmen for this upcoming basketball season, but also class of 2019 recruits who are entering their senior year of high school.
That gave Jallow an exclusive opportunity to not only field questions from the other participants about what playing college basketball is like, but also to get to know a few of the players who Ohio State is recruiting for the class of 2019.
"One of the guys that I know we’re recruiting pretty hard, D.J. Carton, I met him when he came on campus and then I also knew him through AAU, because we played in the same tournaments, so I already kind of had a relationship with him, so I talked to him about all the stuff that would translate from the USA team to Ohio State," Jallow said. "I was rooming with Josiah James, which is another recruit. So I just got to talk to him and give him a little bit more insight than he had originally. And then also Trayce Jackson-Davis, who I played against in high school, so I got to talk to him a little bit."
Carton, a four-star guard from Bettendorf, Iowa, who is ranked as the No. 25 overall player in the class of 2019, included Ohio State among his top six schools last month. James, a five-star point guard from Charleston, South Carolina, who is ranked as the No. 12 overall player in the class of 2019, told Rivals.com’s Corey Evans earlier this month that Ohio State is among nine schools who “sit in a solid spot” in his recruitment. Jackson-Davis, a five-star center from Greenwood, Indiana, who is ranked as the No. 18 overall player in the 2019 class, took an unofficial visit to Ohio State last fall.
Jallow is coming off a freshman season for the Buckeyes in which he averaged 2.5 points per game and 1.5 rebounds per game. While he flashed early in the season, even earning a place in the starting lineup for 10 games, Jallow lost most of his playing time in the rotation as he struggled to find rhythm offensively in Big Ten games.
Now, though, Jallow is working hard alongside his teammates in hopes of playing a bigger role for the Buckeyes in his sophomore campaign. And while the 18-year-old could just be coming out of high school right now, Jallow says he has no regrets about his decision to make the leap to Ohio State early.
"You can always look back and see the little things that you could improve on from the past, but overall, I’m super satisfied with my choice and coming a year early," Jallow said. "Wouldn’t trade it for the world. Love this place, fell in love with the team, all of the guys there treated me well and brought me in like I was just a normal guy, and I wouldn’t look at it any other way."