The first full offseason of the Chris Holtmann era has gone about as well as possible for Ohio State.
The second-year head coach has landed a pair of top-30 prospects in the 2019 class, seen his best player from last season drafted into the NBA and had zero off-the-court issues.
While everyone is already excited to talk about the 2019-20 season that could be setting up for a title run, the Buckeyes still have the 2018-19 season to play, and practice is already underway for Team 120 at Ohio State.
On Tuesday, Holtmann's second squad went through its fourth practice, and the Buckeyes will soon ship off to Spain for a 10-day trip that will see them play three games in three cities against local all-star teams, starting Aug. 1. While basketball remains the genesis of the trip, the ultimate goal appears to be bringing a team with six new players closer together.
"We are taking this summer as an opportunity to kind of learn about each other. I think it is kind of going to be a low-key 10 practices, different from what it will be in October," Holtmann said Tuesday. "I want our guys to be able to enjoy this trip and to enjoy being together and learn about each other."
The overseas trip is the first Ohio State has taken since the 2014-15 season, when Thad Matta took his team to the Bahamas. The NCAA allows a program to take a trip like this once every four years, and this season seemed like the perfect time for a Buckeye team that looks drastically different from a year ago.
As is well-documented by now, Ohio State has welcomed four freshmen and two transfers to the roster this year, with only Florida State transfer CJ Walker ineligible to play due to NCAA rules. Since the practices in Spain figure to be less strenuous than preseason practices in Columbus, Holtmann said he will use the time to let his players enjoy the trip, but also to experiment with a variety of lineups in both practice and games.
"We are going to play all different kind of lineups, start all different kind of lineups," Holtmann said. "We are looking forward to it. We have a new team in a lot of ways. We have a lot of questions that need to be answered. This summer is going to be a lot about learning how we can attack some of those questions."
“I want our guys to be able to enjoy this trip and to enjoy being together and learn about each other.”– Chris Holtmann on trip to Spain
Holtmann said his decision to pick Spain as the summer destination was in large part because that is where he was planning on taking one of his Butler teams before he left to come to Columbus. He added he has experienced trips to the Bahamas and Australia before, but chose Spain in part because of the educational opportunities it provides his players.
"This is, as much as anything, a good multicultural experience for our players," Holtmann said. "We are going to preach education to our guys and the importance of that. I don't want that to be lost in all this. We want it to be a cross-cultural and multicultural experience for all of our players."
Ohio State will travel to Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona during its trip, playing one game in each city. The teams Ohio State will play will consist of professional athletes from a variety of cities that are more all-star squads than organized programs, according to Holtmann.
After talking to a handful of coaches about similar trips, Holtmann said it is clear that getting the extended practice time and game experience doesn't always translate to a more improved team when the season starts. What it does provide Ohio State, though, is a better understanding of each other, and that should give them a leg up on developing team chemistry prior to preseason practice in October.
"When you have a group that is relatively new, it is better because they spend concentrated time together. We get to learn more about them. We will be put in some difficult game situations because the competition (overseas) has typically been pretty good," Holtmann said. "Time together is up there in terms of the importance for our team, and how that ultimately translates to December and January, who knows? But I would rather be doing it than not doing it."