The stakes might not have been high, but Sunday’s second Kingdom League contest at Ohio Dominican University was anything but insignificant for Andre and Kaleb Wesson.
The pair of brothers have been teammates on the hardwood for most of their lives, playing together at Westerville South High School before teaming up for three seasons together at Ohio State. Upon leaving the program in 2020, though, that on-court partnership was almost certain to be put on hold.
Nearly two-and-a-half years after their final game together as Buckeyes, the Columbus natives got the chance to suit up as teammates in an organized game setting for the first time since their college basketball careers came to an end. Not even a losing effort in the game itself could put a damper on the reunion between family members and former Ohio State standouts.
Both Wesson brothers and Kalen Etzler all on the same team for the second Kingdom League game of the afternoon. pic.twitter.com/nBTFP0U44u— Griffin Strom (@GriffinStrom3) July 17, 2022
“It felt great. I had a lot of fun today. I haven't had this much fun playing basketball in a while, especially with my brother,” Kaleb Wesson said after the game. “Just that fun environment and just being out here, being able to hoop. You want to win, wins and losses, but it’s really about coming out here and everybody enjoying themselves and working on your game.”
“Finally being able to (play together again), we haven’t done it since college. Thinking about high school days, him feeding me in the post, I’m feeding him in the post, just reminiscing.”
“That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to play this year just to get a chance to play with him again. It’s always fun and I’m looking forward to continue doing it.”– Andre Wesson on teaming up with Kaleb at Kingdom League
Sunday was Andre Wesson’s third Kingdom League appearance of the summer, but it was the first for Kaleb, who hadn’t participated in the annual summer tournament since 2019. Kaleb Wesson said he simply didn’t have the time over the past couple years, as he spent time doing predraft training in Houston in 2020 and played in the NBA Summer League the following year.
Kaleb Wesson’s decision to play this summer was one of the primary factors in Andre’s own choice to participate.
“That was real fun. That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to play this year just to get a chance to play with him again,” Andre Wesson said. “It’s always fun and I’m looking forward to continue doing it.”
Andre isn’t the only family member Kaleb Wesson is spending more time around this summer. Playing in Israel and Puerto Rico this past year, Kaleb Wesson hadn’t been back to Columbus in 10 months. Now the former Buckeye big man said he’s soaking up as much time as possible with his son while still playing as much basketball as possible.
“I just got back. I’ve been away since last September, so being here, being with my son, he’s about to turn two in August, so spending a lot of time with him right now is my priority,” Kaleb Wesson said. “Also staying in the gym, staying in shape, coming out here like this, testing what I’m doing in the gym, seeing if it’s working. That’s about it.”
And-one finish inside for Kaleb Wesson: pic.twitter.com/ReZQuwmqLK— Griffin Strom (@GriffinStrom3) July 17, 2022
Andre Wesson’s professional basketball career didn’t get off to quite as fast a start as his brother’s following his departure from Ohio State. While Kaleb played for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the NBA G League for the 2020-21 season, Andre didn’t get a chance to play at all.
He got his shot this past year, though, and finished a 29-game season in Finland’s Korisliiga with an average of 16.1 points per game (second-best on the team) on 51 percent shooting from the field. Wesson said there was a definite culture shock and a bit of homesickness upon moving overseas, but he was thrilled to showcase his talents at the professional level.
“It was crazy. Finland was obviously fun,” Andre Wesson said. “Right after (college) I took a year where I didn’t play at all, didn’t really get any offers. So getting to play again, that was super fun. Happy they gave me an opportunity and looking to grow upon that. … It’s different for sure. Obviously being away from home for the first time is tough, but having them, my family, they help me get through it and know that we’ll be back and be together soon. So it’s fine.”
Andre said he won’t be back in Finland next season, but is hoping to land another opportunity abroad. Kaleb isn’t sure of his next move either, but said he’s open to playing overseas again or filling a roster spot in the G League. In the meantime, both players are taking part in Ohio State’s “Vet Week” event, where a slew of former Buckeyes return to the Schottenstein Center to provide tutelage to the current roster.
The Wesson brothers each said they keep in contact with Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann from time to time and know this year will be particularly interesting with eight new scholarship players on the Buckeye roster.
“I talk to Coach Holtmann a little bit, just about his season, a lot of new guys coming in,” Kaleb Wesson said. “He was actually talking to my dad and we were just chatting it up about how the new guys coming in is just gonna be a struggle at first. A lot of new minds coming to a new program. You got a lot of transfers coming in, things like that. It’s gonna be tough at first, but we got the talent. Coach Holtmann always seems to know how to put the pieces together and coach teams up to know we’re gonna be one of the top teams in the Big Ten. I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like.”
Both Wessons also said they like what they’ve seen from the Buckeyes’ rising young talent thus far, whether in Kingdom League matchups or otherwise.
“All of them have been playing really well,” Andre Wesson said. “Obviously we played against Brice (Sensabaugh) and he had a great game against us, he was really impressive. I’ve seen highlights of Bruce (Thornton) and he looked really good. Zed of course. So I mean everybody out here’s been really impressive. I’m excited to see what they do this year, for sure.”
Kaleb Wesson still acknowledges just how impactful Holtmann and the Buckeye coaching staff were in his own development, both in rounding out his skill set and changing his physique. The noticeably thinner big man said he plays a stretch four or stretch five overseas, and that his ability to shoot the ball and make plays for others are primary factors in the success he’s had.
“I give credit to Coach Holtmann making me shoot threes a lot more during college. I thought I was an inside player, I thought a lot of my money would be made in the paint, that’s where I get my bread and butter,” Wesson said. “Come to find out in my pro career, teams value my shooting a lot more than they do my inside game. That’s just where the game’s gone now, so I give them a lot of credit.”
Neither Wesson is done working to perfect their craft on the hardwood, and with the potential to play together in more Kingdom League games to come, the brothers are doing so together once again.