Presser Bullets: Chris Holtmann, Bruce Thornton and Zed Key Preview “Hungry” Ohio State Basketball Team's Season

By Andy Anders on November 1, 2023 at 4:56 pm

Ohio State basketball season is six days away.

With the Buckeyes searching for a resurgence after a disappointing 16-19 campaign last season, Chris Holtmann spoke to the media about key areas of improvement for Ohio State to address coming out of its two preseason scrimmages and the roles that Zed Key, Bruce Thornton, Jamison Battle and Roddy Gayle will play.

Prior to Holtmann's time, Bruce Thornton and Zed Key also spoke with the media. Key touched on the Buckeyes' mentality entering the season and his body transformation, while Thornton said he puts the responsibility of "winning the Big Ten Championship" on his shoulders as a returning captain and the team's point guard.

Chris Holtmann

  • Holtmann said that Ohio State will face a "diverse" style of opponents in its first few games of the season. "They just play different styles, different than we typically see. It will be a great test for us to figure some things out."
  • Ohio State is not ready to make its captains public yet, Holtmann said.
  • No significant injury updates, Holtmann said, though none of Ohio State's injuries entering last weekend's "secret" scrimmage against Clemson are "long-term."
  • On his team's anticipation to open the season: "They're more than ready. They're anxious to compete against other competition. ... I know they're excited."
  • On how anxious he is to see the team in a true game: "Super anxious ... college basketball is such a long offseason in terms of how much you're doing with your guys in the offseason."
  • Right now OSU isn't focused on any long-term goals like championship aspirations or what its record will be, it's just about getting better each game, Holtmann said.
  • On where the Buckeyes need to improve: "Rebounding No. 1. Defensive rebounding. We were really good on the offensive glass in our last scrimmage, that's got to continue to be good for us. ... I think we've got to take care of the ball at a higher level ... our turnover percentage as a group needs to be better."
  • Ohio State has "no set rotation" at the moment and Holtmann said he can't put an exact number on how deep the team is going at this point.
  • On Zed Key: "Zed's had a good approach." Holtmann said that if Key's "focus" is on doing whatever he can to help the team, he'll have a good year.
  • On Bruce Thornton: "He's everything you'd want, really, in an Ohio State point guard. He's tough, he cares about winning ... cares about the right stuff. You want that guy leading your team. ... Excited about his sophomore year."
  • Holtmann had high praise for Oakland head coach Greg Kampe. "Always been impressed with him and the way he coaches ... Greg's done a lot for our game. Greg's asked to come and play here for a number of years and we were finally able to work it into our schedule."
  • On Roddy Gayle's performances in Ohio State's scrimmages: "He had some really good moments against Dayton. Admittedly, he'll tell you he struggled against Clemson. ... We can take film and look at it and say, 'Now that you're in a bigger role than you were last year, this is what we need you to do better.' ... I'm really confident in his approach, in his attitude, what he can grow into ... but it's going to take a minute."
  • Jamison Battle needs to keep working on his rebounding but Holtmann said he's confident in the transfer's scoring presence. "He needs to be that four. We expect that, he's got the ability to do it."
  • Holtmann confirmed that Battle and Thornton will be starters and that the staff has a good idea of what its lineup will be against Oakland, but "we'll see what that looks like on Monday night."
  • On losing handily against Clemson in the team's "secret" scrimmage: "We played a lot of unique lineups in that scrimmage. ... So some of that wasn't stuff that was necessarily on them. ... But the stuff that we can control that we've talked about, rebounding, taking care of the ball ... those are things that we need to correct."
  • Holtmann feels that the Buckeyes have already had a lot of quality practices before the season begins. "We've had some quality stacked days. And we've probably went longer (in practice) than we have in years past."

Bruce Thornton and Zed Key

  • Key on the identity of the team: "We're just a hungry, hungry group. Guys want to win, have the will to win. ... Just excited to show that on Monday."
  • Thornton said the Buckeyes don't care who produces, so long as they are coming out victorious. "At the end of the day, we just want to win."
  • "This year, we have something to prove this year with how last year ended," Key added.
  • Key on how he plans to help the team: "Any way possible ... I'm not fit into any role. ... They need me to start, I'll start. They need me to come off the bench, I'll come off the bench. ... What matters to me is winning."
  • Thornton on Scotty Middleton: "The energy. He brings it every day. ... When I look at him, he has that focus, he has that energy to just bring it out of you."
  • Key on his body transformation this offseason and how it's helped him: "I'm glad I lost this weight, because I feel more explosive out there, better on defense, better on offense."
  • Thornton on what more he puts on his shoulders as a returning captain: "Winning the Big Ten Championship. Regular season and the whole thing. That was my mindset when I came here ... as a competitor, why not?" He added that the ultimate goal is a national championship.
  • While he doesn't think the offense will be much different, feeling the team has been strong in that area, Key believes Buckeye fans will see another level of physicality and buy-in to the system on defense.
  • Key said that Ohio State fans will see "the will" that the team will have this year. "It sounds cliche but ... last year is really going to push us this year."
  • Key on his recovery from an injury down the stretch of last season: "It's actually crazy that it's been 10 months ... it doesn't seem like it's been that long of a time span. ... I'm just ready to play on Monday ... I didn't get to finish out the season last year. I'm just ready to get back out there and play."
  • Thornton feels more comfortable leading and directing the team as its point guard with a year of major experience under his belt. "It was way different last year, really not knowing what's going to be next ... I feel way more confident. ... When you have that confidence in yourself, you feel like you can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it."
  • The development of Thornton as a leader and player from his freshman to his sophomore year has been immense, Key said. "Coming in as a freshman last year for Bruce, he's grown tremendously. The coaching staff wants the most out of him and he brings it every day."
  • Thornton on the transfers: "All of them were quiet guys at first ... then they started to open up. ... Those three players can really benefit us this year and help us win games and help us win the Big Ten Championship."
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