Presser Bullets: Chris Holtmann Says Bruce Thornton Will Be “At the Forefront” of Ohio State’s Efforts, Kevin McGuff Feels Women's Team Has Improved Defensively

By Andy Anders on September 25, 2023 at 3:22 pm

College basketball season is lurking around the corner.

As such, both Ohio State men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann and women's head coach Kevin McGuff took some time to address their teams' media on Monday.

Holtmann feels his group has the potential to be "much improved" defensively, stated that sophomore point guard Bruce Thornton will be "at the forefront" of Ohio State's efforts and discussed his squad's areas of focus leading up to the season.

McGuff spoke to the addition of guard Celeste Taylor and forward Taiyier Parks from the transfer portal and detailed plans for how his squad will replace sharp-shooting guard Taylor Mikesell.

Chris Holtmann

  • Holtmann opened his press conference by congratulating the football team on its win over Notre Dame on Saturday. "I'd be remiss if I didn't start with the talk of the sports world. ... We enjoyed watching it together as a team the last couple of days."
  • Ohio State will have 30 practices starting this week before its first game, which will be important to build "consistent habits," Holtmann said. "It's been really nice to see some faces who went through some real battles last year back at it."
  • Holtmann feels that between strong marquee nonconference games, mid-majors and a rigorous conference slate, the Buckeyes have a fantastic schedule this season. "I really believe our schedule is the best schedule we've had since we've been here."
  • While Ohio State still has a young roster on paper, Holtmann said it's more veteran in terms of experience than a season ago. "We have way more knowns than what we had at this time last year. ... We are still young ... my only point to that would be the experience that those three sophomores got last year ... I don't consider them sophomores."
  • "Our guys are, physically, as good as they've been. I think our conditioning is something we need to improve on these next 4 to 6 weeks."
  • The "scars" of a rough 16-19 campaign in 2022-23 should provide extra motivation for Ohio State this year, Holtmann said. "There can be real power in the pain we went through last year. ... I don't think you can go through what we went through last year and not feel that way if you're a competitive guy."
  • On the team's trip to Hocking Hills: "We had a psychologist on-call for the shakes that came out of the players when we took their cell phones away. ... Having a chance to just spend some time together, it was the first time we had done that. ... It gave us an opportunity for us to speak to them, as well as some other guys, then build our relationship with each other."
  • Holtmann said the team "needed" to add some wing scoring in 2023-24 with the loss of Justice Sueing and Brice Sensabaugh from last year's team.
  • On Zed Key's body transformation: "His mobility has been really good." Holtmann said the team will "look" at a lineup with Key at power forward and Felix Okpara at center.
  • Improving defensive efficiency is a top priority for the Buckeyes as they enter their first games. "It is something that we have told our guys, 'This is our goal.' ... That's taken a lot of thought and study over the offseason. ... I think this group has the ability to be a much-improved defensive team, but we've got to prove it."
  • On Roddy Gayle saying that the team's "nothing to lose" mentality helped it play better in the Big Ten Tournament: "We certainly played lighter. We started to play really well a week and a half to two weeks before that ... I think that created a little bit of momentum for us."
  • On Bruce Thornton: "He's going to be at the forefront of any type of leadership role or direction this team takes."
  • Holtmann expressed gratitude to be part of Ohio State basketball's 125th season. "It's been incredible. It's been an incredible place to be at. ... I'm excited about celebrating this year and what all that represents."
  • On Gayle: "The confidence that he gained from the last month and a half of the season. ... You started to see him turn the corner. ... I expect him to make a real positive jump, and I think there's going to be a lot asked of him. ... He's better, we've seen that here this summer. He's gotten some really good work. I think he's been in the best shape he's been since he's been here."
  • More on Thornton: "I think that's when we became a more-efficient offense, when we played through him more. ... We're going to continue to play through him."
  • Holtmann said that Ohio State's health is "all-in-all" pretty good, but there are some players not at 100 percent.
  • On Okpara: "I think there can be a step taken for sure. ... For him, it's continual steps in terms of improving overall skill. ... There's no question offensively he's gotten better and will continue to."
  • "I'm really excited about the potential of this group. ... I think if our team takes steps in those areas we feel like we have to improve in, I'm excited about what we can be."

Kevin McGuff

  • Ohio State added Taylor from Duke in the transfer portal this offseason, fresh off a campaign as ACC Defensive Player of the Year. She's already shown a lot of her skills to the Buckeyes' leading man. "She's a great kid. ... I think she's going to be a great fit, she's already provided great leadership, great energy in practice." He added that a new offensive system could aid in her showcasing more of her offensive skills.
  • On managing expectations: "Really just emphasize that it's a new year, a new season, a new team. ... We'll look a little different I think, but I think just emphasizing the things that allowed us to be successful last year."
  • On adjusting to life without star guard Taylor Mikesell: "She's a special player ... we're going to need some people to step up and make some shots from the perimeter."
  • Cotie McMahon's experience with USA Basketball will help her take another step forward in moving the ball, McGuff said. "Just another summer of really learning those types of things will help her contribute to this type of team."
  • On where the team has improved: "I think already, we're a little better in the half-court defensively. Celeste, I've mentioned her a couple of times, has helped us defensively."
  • McGuff feels that Ohio State's team chemistry will be a strength once again in 2023-24.
  • On Jacy Sheldon: "She's such a great player and a great kid. ... She's kind of the engine that makes our team go. ... She's had a great offseason."
  • On how COVID-19 waivers have affected roster construction: "It's really difficult, because you have these conversations ... we'd look a lot different if Jacy and Rebeka (Mikulasikova) didn't come back. ... You've got to have conversations and then take the information and make the best decision possible."
  • On the addition of transfer Taiyier Parks: "She's a really good addition as well. Just the way we're built, we get these post players that play really well on the perimeter and they're just not as used to playing around the rim."
  • Name, Image and Likeness has had a huge impact on collegiate women's basketball, McGuff said. "That's part of the reason you're seeing these fifth-year kids come back."
  • On Harris: "She's a very, very, very bright kid with a high basketball IQ. ... She's been really good with her leadership in the offseason and we're going to need that out of her."

In addition to Holtmann and McGuff, all 15 members of Ohio State’s men’s basketball team met with the media on Monday. We caught up with 12 of them, and you can hear what each of them had to say in the videos linked below:

Nine members of Ohio State’s women’s basketball team met with the media on Tuesday, and you can hear what each of them had to say – as well as McGuff in a second press conference – in the following videos:

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