Kaleb Wesson was always going to be the key to Ohio State's success this season.
With Keita Bates-Diop playing at the next level and the graduation of Jae'Sean Tate, Wesson now joins C.J. Jackson as the only returning starters and is really the only reliable production the Buckeyes return in the front court.
Last season, Bates-Diop led the team with 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game followed by Tate's 12.3 points and 6.2 boards. Wesson was next up in terms of front court production, averaging 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
This offseason, Wesson began to understand his importance to the team and the importance of a well-rounded game, and he began working to improve himself outside of just a tradition post skillset.
"I am trying to work on my guarding skills, developing a perimeter shot while still working on my stuff in the post," Wesson said during the offseason. "I thought that one aspect of my game would get me there, but I had a skewed way of thinking."
While he can't make up for Bates-Diop and Tate's lost production by himself, Wesson was always going to be the team's go-to player this season as newcomers adjusted, developed and found their place on the team.
But now, he's a bit more than that – he's the single most important player on the team.
With Micah Potter announcing his decision to transfer from the program just days before the start of the season, Ohio State has almost no depth at the center position behind Wesson.
The lone option seems to be true freshman Jaedon Ledee, who obviously inexperienced, and at 6-7, 240 lbs., is not exactly your prototypical big man. Outside of him, or perhaps 6-foot-6 Kyle Young, Ohio State will have to play small.
The Buckeyes will need Wesson on the court as much as possible, and that was his biggest problem last season due to his conditioning and foul trouble. Wesson played fewer minutes than any Ohio State starter last season and led the team in fouls per minute by a wide margin.
Wesson and the coaching staff have repeatedly talked about his improved conditioning this offseason and he certainly looks slimmer, but the unplanned loss of his only real backup who averaged over 10 minutes a game last season will not be easy to cope with.
The good news is, Wesson was already doing all the right things to prepare himself for more minutes this season even before Potter's transfer. He's slimmed down from his 289-pound frame last season, he's been working on defending without fouling and he was always preparing to play as many minutes as possible this season.
Now there's just a little more pressure for him to do it.