Last season, C.J. Jackson was tasked with a position change as he became Ohio State's primary point guard, replacing the departed JaQuan Lyle.
For his final act in 2018-19, Jackson must now replace the likes of Jae'Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop as the Buckeyes' primary leader, as Ohio State has seen four seniors move on from last year's squad.
Entering his third and final season as a Buckeye, Jackson said June 13 that he has been working on being that better leader during the offseason, both on and off the court. He spent time with an Athletes in Action group in early June in an effort to improve his leadership qualities.
"The coaches sent me to basically be a leader for this team. I really liked the experience," Jackson said. "To hear other perspectives from guys at other schools, it was interesting to see how they perceived things on their teams, and how I can bring that back to our team."
The trip to Xenia, Ohio with the Athletes in Action group was not only beneficial for Jackson to learn other ideas, but also to get out of his own comfort zone. Having played behind a number of veterans for the entirety of his Buckeye career, Jackson said he needed a little push to be thrust to the front of the line as Ohio State's veteran presence.
"Just to get out of myself a little bit," Jackson said. "I have been – I don't want to say taking a back seat – but I have been not really vocal at practice and off the court, so this kind of helped me see where my strengths are as a leader and what I need to work on."
One of the biggest challenges for Jackson this season could be getting a very different team to buy into the culture that Chris Holtmann has set following year one at Ohio State. The Buckeyes welcomed in six new faces to the team this season, including four freshmen and transfers Keyshawn Woods and C.J. Walker.
Jackson said he and the other veterans have taken it upon themselves to make sure the new players know what is expected of them now that they are on campus in Columbus.
"This year we have a completely new team. There are a lot of guys that don't know what it means to be in this program," Jackson said. "Not only myself, but a couple of other guys who have been here are trying to be more of a leader. We don't have to do it individually, we can do it collectively."
As someone who has experienced the highs and lows of the last two years at Ohio State, Jackson knows what it takes to be successful and conversely, what to avoid to keep from accumulating losses. He said he and the other Buckeye veterans are going to push hard during the offseason to make sure that the new team jells and Ohio State has another successful campaign in year two under Holtmann.
"The players returning know what it takes. We know what it takes to lose as well. We are not trying to go down that path," Jackson said. "We are trying to take the path that we took last summer."