There’s little that changes for Jamison Battle going into Ohio State’s matchup with Minnesota on Sunday.
Yes, the Buckeyes’ top transfer portal acquisition is facing off against the team he transferred from in the contest. But his focus remains on delivering his new bunch to victory and a step forward in their progression.
“You obviously have thoughts about that, but it’s just the first Big Ten game of the season, that’s how we’re looking at it,” Battle said. “As a team, we’ve got some things we need to improve on from the Central Michigan game and from games prior. I think we’re looking forward to opening the Big Ten season at home and playing a pretty solid Minnesota team.”
Still, Ohio State’s coaching staff will be working with him to ensure that he stays locked into that mindset as the Buckeyes look to extend their five-game winning streak against the Golden Gophers.
“We know this is a part of college basketball,” Holtmann said. “We’re not the only one that has interconference transfers, all over college basketball (there are). There will be an emotional element for him that he’ll have to keep in mind.”
There’s no ill will harbored by Battle toward his former program.
“Jamison has great respect for those players, those coaches, that program,” Holtmann said. “I think it did so much for him, meant so much to him. Every conversation I’ve ever had with him, he speaks really highly of the program and the coaches and the players.”
Battle remains close with many of his former teammates. Senior forward Parker Fox, junior forward Isaiah Ihnen and junior forward Dawson Garcia were among those he named as close friends.
He holds a special respect for Fox and Ihnen, who have both dealt with season-ending ACL tears in back-to-back years.
“I still keep up with those guys, it’s the relationship I have being there for two years and spending every day with those guys,” Battle said. “You’re never going to lose those relationships, and in the end, you want to make sure that those guys are being successful and you’re helping them with whatever they need.”
That said, the Gophers will become the enemy once Battle takes the Value City Arena floor for Sunday evening’s game.
“I talked about it with those guys beforehand when I did transfer, ‘We’re brothers off the court, but then on the court, we’re rivals,’” Battle said. “I think that’s something that we’re all looking forward to and I just can’t wait to get out there and play the game. I’m feeling excited – it’ll be a little bit different when we head to the Barn (in Minnesota).”
“It’s just the first Big Ten game of the season, that’s how we’re looking at it. As a team, we’ve got some things we need to improve on from the Central Michigan game and from games prior.”– Jamison Battle on facing his former team
Battle transferred to Ohio State from Minnesota this offseason after two years in Minneapolis. He previously spent two seasons with George Washington of the Atlantic 10.
The Golden Gophers’ leading scorer in 2021-22 and second-leading scorer the following year, Battle averaged 17.5 points his first year with the team and 12.4 in his second. He’s matched the latter total exactly thus far in his first campaign in Columbus.
A career 35.2% shooter from 3, Battle has bounced back from a career-low 31.1% from distance in 2022-23 to make 38.6% of his attempts through seven games this year.
“We’re challenging him in some of these other areas that he’s got to grow in,” Holtmann said Tuesday. “But he’s a really good shooter and scorer, and I think he’s getting a better and better feel for what we expect.”
The top areas in his game available for growth are playmaking and rebounding, Battle said.
“I think the biggest improvement for me has been making sure I’m getting everyone involved in that aspect of seeing open guys, I’m not forcing shots and I’m making sure that I’m making the right plays,” Battle said. “I think that’s something that I’ve grown into. I feel like, at times, I’ve made the right plays but at times I haven’t made the right plays.”
A knowledge of Minnesota’s system will give Battle some extra input over the coming days in terms of game prep, he said. The Buckeyes are fresh off a dominant 88-61 victory over Central Michigan on Wednesday, which came after they won the Emerald Coast Classic last weekend.
“There’s a lot of things that I can help with and just give the feedback that I see and help my teammates as well with personnel, with different stuff,” Battle said. “We’ve talked a little bit but today will be a big scouting day for us so we’ll see what happens there.”
Extra motivation is present for Battle’s Buckeye teammates, who lost at home to Minnesota a year ago. Garcia scored a career-high 28 points in an air-tight 70-67 win for the Gophers that featured a controversial game-altering call at the end.
“It was a good game, it was a Big Ten battle,” Battle said. “Getting a win is something that’s special on the road, especially in the Big Ten. You know how hard that is. I think the way Dawson played – he’s a really good player and that’s who we have to stop.”
Ohio State and Minnesota tip off at 6:30 p.m. Sunday with the game set to be aired by Big Ten Network.