What to Know from Ohio State's Open Practices in Days Ahead of Exhibition with Cedarville

By Colin Hass-Hill, Jake Anderson and David Wertheim on October 29, 2019 at 8:29 pm
E.J. Liddell

Even before Ohio State tipped off its closed-door scrimmage with Louisville nine days ago, Chris Holtmann saw the zest in CJ Walker’s eyes. He couldn’t miss the enthusiasm.

At this point in the fall, it’s a common feeling for college basketball players.

Kaleb Wesson has had to wait six months to show off his improved physique, and Andre Wesson has had half of a year to work on improving his offensive efficiency. The second-year players want to get back onto the court to show off what they’ve been working on in the offseason. The four freshmen – DJ Carton, E.J. Liddell, Alonzo Gaffney and Ibrahima Diallo – wrapped up their senior seasons of high school basketball in the spring before enrolling early in the summer.

No player particularly wants to continue facing their teammates every day in preseason practices. But nobody has had to wait longer than Walker, a fourth-year junior point guard who sat out last season after transferring from Florida State.

“I looked it up the other day,” Walker said on Tuesday. “I haven't played in like 500-something days. I was that desperate to play a game that I looked it up. So I'm most definitely ready to play against somebody else in front of a crowd and be able to play with my teammates.”

He and his teammates will get a taste of game action when they take on Cedarville in an exhibition at the Schottenstein Center on Wednesday evening (7 p.m., BTN Plus).

By then, they will have completed 24 practices. The vast majority of those have been closed off to both the public and the media, but an hour of Monday’s practice was open to the Sportsmanship Club, and students were invited to watch an hour of Tuesday’s practice. Eleven Warriors reporters were in attendance both days.

With the season approaching and the exhibition just a day away, here’s what you should know about what happened in each practice.

What We Saw in Monday’s Practice

  • DJ Carton has returned to action. He suffered a sprained ankle early in the closed-door exhibition win against Louisville nine days ago and it wasn't immediately evident whether that injury would linger. Carton practiced on both Monday and Tuesday and will play in the exhibition with Cedarville on Wednesday. He didn't have any limitations in either practice.
  • Musa Jallow watched the practice while sitting in a chair wearing a walking boot on his right leg. He had an arthroscopic procedure on his right ankle 11 days ago and is out indefinitely.
  • Justin Ahrens practiced, but Holtmann estimated he's only feeling about "70 percent" healthy while continuing to recover from a back injury.
  • The Buckeyes went through a drill that began with a five-man lineup playing half-court offense against air before getting back on defense as a group of managers – led by assistant coach Jake Diebler – pushed the ball down the court. Here are some of the various lineups employed in that drill.
    • CJ Walker, Luther Muhammad, Justin Ahrens, Kyle Young, Kaleb Wesson
    • DJ Carton, CJ Walker, Duane Washington Jr., Alonzo Gaffney, Ibrahima Diallo
    • DJ Carton, Justin Ahrens, Andre Wesson, E.J. Liddell, Alonzo Gaffney
    • Danny Hummer, Duane Washington Jr., Luther Muhammad, E.J. Liddell, Kyle Young
    • DJ Carton, Luther Muhammad, Justin Ahrens, Kyle Young, Kaleb Wesson
    • DJ Carton, CJ Walker, Duane Washington Jr., Alonzo Gaffney, Ibrahima Diallo
    • DJ Carton, Justin Ahrens, Andre Wesson, Alonzo Gaffney, E.J. Liddell
    • Danny Hummer, Duane Washington Jr., Luther Muhammad, Kyle Young, Kaleb Wesson
    • CJ Walker, Luther Muhammad, Justin Ahrens, Kyle Young, Kaleb Wesson
  • While answering about 20 minutes of questions from the audience after practice, Holtmann said he believes this year's team will be "a little bit" deeper than last year's team, calling it a "good thing." He also said the Buckeyes will be more versatile and have more length than they did a season ago. 
  • Holtmann will largely be able to mix up lineups however he prefers given the roster composition. Most players have experience at multiple positions.
  • For about 10 minutes, the Buckeyes split into two teams and scrimmaged, playing three total offensive possessions at a time. Here are how the teams split up.
    • Scarlet: Kaleb Wesson, Kyle Young, Alonzo Gaffney, DJ Carton, Justice Sueing, Duane Washington Jr., Danny Hummer
    • Gray: CJ Walker, E.J. Liddell, Ibrahima Diallo, Luther Muhammad, Andre Wesson, Justin Ahrens, Harrison Hookfin
  • It wasn't exactly the prettiest offensive practice. Turnovers, which Holtmann mentioned on Tuesday as an issue, cropped up during the practice. Andre Wesson nearly stole the ball from Carton. Kaleb Wesson intercepted a pass from Muhammad in transition. Liddell lost the ball on a drive. Ahrens caught a pass out of bounds. Kaleb Wesson threw a pass to Justice Sueing that was wide and went out of bounds. Diallo didn't expect a pass from Andre Wesson that got picked off.
  • Diallo and Gaffney might have the two longest wingspans on the team, but they also are arguably the two rawest players. Their physical makeups could allow them to turn into impactful players, but they have a long way to go. It's not breaking news, but it was evident on Monday. Diallo bit on a pump fake, and he also lost control of the ball when posting up Liddell. Gaffney posted up Hookfin, a smaller player, and couldn't back him down, settling for a missed fadeaway jumper.
  • Andre Wesson and Kyle Young are still the same gritty players they've been the past two to three years. During a positional drill, Wesson missed a short jump hook, got his own rebound and followed it up for a bucket. Later in that same drill, Young got the ball inside and managed to make a sweeping layup while falling to the ground, leading to cheers and multiple teammates rushing to help him back to his feet.
  • Sueing, a transfer from California, will sit out this season before becoming eligible in 2020-21. He's still involved in practices, though, and it's clear why the Buckeyes added him. Sueing is a smooth operator with the ball in his hands. 
  • Walker hasn't played a minute for the Buckeyes in an actual game but might be their leader. As post-practice stretching began, he walked around and dapped everybody up. Holtmann has said he's a future coach on multiple occasions, and it was clear why on Monday.
  • At the end of practice, Diebler lined up from halfcourt for a shot on his birthday. He drilled it and got mobbed by players. Holtmann, talking to the crowd: “They get two chances to make a half-court shot. Staff members, not players. If they make one of two, they get a little something extra on their desk the next morning. I'm going to be out a little cash tomorrow morning.”

What We Saw in Tuesday’s Practice

As this was a practice that was open to students, Ohio State did not exactly show a whole lot of things that were “unexpected.”

  • Ohio State ran several defensive drills which featured a team of walk-ons and managers (plus Diebler) facing a rotation of scholarship players. The drills featured a number of three-on-three and five-on-five situations with an emphasis on transition defense. 
  • Musa Jallow continued to sit out with his right ankle injury. He was riding a mobility scooter with a boot on his ankle.
  • Jared Sullinger was in attendance with his newborn child. Holtmann gave him a shoutout as he was addressing the students towards the end of practice. 
  • Ohio State did a shooting drill towards the end of the practice. Carton, Kaleb Wesson and Duane Washington looked pretty good from downtown. The Buckeyes will need more of that in order to be successful this season.
  • Holtmann, a staunch supporter of student involvement within his program, addressed the students after the practice and had the players introduce themselves to the crowd. 
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