Jacy Sheldon will be back with the Buckeyes next season.
The veteran guard announced Wednesday that she would return to Ohio State for a fifth and final season in the scarlet and gray, utilizing an extra year of eligibility afforded to all student-athletes whose sport was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
"I love being a Buckeye, and I can't wait to run it back with my teammates," Sheldon wrote in a tweet. "See you next year Buckeye Nation."
A potential first-round pick in the 2023 WNBA draft at the start of the 2022-23 season, Sheldon improved her draft stock tremendously in the first few weeks of the year, averaging 16 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and an NCAA-best six steals per contest after the opening six games. Those numbers propelled her into top-10 pick territory, according to mock drafts from ESPN and The Athletic.
However, Sheldon's hot start to the season abruptly stopped when she suffered a lower-leg ailment that forced her to miss 22 of the next 23 games for the Buckeyes, with the lone exception being Ohio State's road trip to Maryland on Feb. 5, where Sheldon played 25 minutes, scored five points and added five rebounds and three assists.
Sheldon returned to full strength in time for Ohio State's Big Ten Tournament run at the start of March and came off the bench to help her team take down Michigan and Indiana before the Buckeyes ultimately fell to Iowa in the championship. Sheldon combined to play 45 minutes in those contests, collecting 18 points, two rebounds, six assists and six steals.
The Dublin, Ohio, native made her return to the starting lineup in the NCAA Tournament. In Ohio State's first-round matchup with James Madison, Sheldon scored 17 points and collected nine assists in the Buckeyes' win over the Dukes. Sheldon then became the hero of Ohio State's 71-69 win over North Carolina in the second round, capping off a 16-point effort with a game-winning runner with 1.8 seconds remaining.
JACY SHELDON GAME-WINNER. pic.twitter.com/KNEHAWYkoG— Eleven Warriors (@11W) March 20, 2023
Sheldon was also pivotal in Ohio State’s historic upset of UConn in the Sweet 16, contributing 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists, as well as a perfect 10-of-10 mark from the free-throw line. In the Buckeyes' 84-74 loss to Virginia Tech in the Elite Eight, Sheldon finished with 19 points.
In Ohio State's four NCAA Tournament games, Sheldon averaged 17.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.3 steals on 40% shooting from the field. She also went 27 of 29 at the charity stripe (93.1%), a percentage that led the team and ranked among the best in the entire tournament.
After Ohio State's loss to Virginia Tech, Sheldon was asked about her future with the Buckeyes and whether or not she would consider leaving for the WNBA after this season. She elected to hold off on an official announcement then, but her answer still hinted at where her heart was heading in 2023-24.
“We had a great team this year, and we’re going to build off that next year, and obviously, losing Taylor (Mikesell) is going to be big shoes to fill because she’s an amazing player and a great teammate," Sheldon said.
Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff shared a similar optimism to Sheldon about the program's hope to carry momentum from a historic year into next season. Now that Sheldon has made it known that she will be back with the Buckeyes for another run, his words have a bit more weight than they did on Monday.
“I think our best days are still ahead of us,” McGuff said. “I really like, we’ll have to see with some of the kids who have COVID years and stuff, but just the possibilities of what we could have next year. And I think we’ve got a great culture and got great kids in the program, and we’ll add some other people one way or another. So I think this is a great opportunity for us to even build off of this.
“I think last year we took the experience of the Sweet 16, and I think we felt confident coming into that game because we were right there, a possession away. And hopefully, we can get back here and learn from this one a little bit. Because, like I said, we ran into a great team, who played really well tonight, but I think hopefully, we can look back and say, ‘Hey, boy, if we really lock in and execute a little bit better, then we’ll give ourselves a better chance to win.’”
Sheldon will return to Ohio State next season with a promising cast of players, including Big Ten Freshman of the Year Cotie McMahon, second-team All-Big Ten honoree Taylor Thierry and Madison Greene coming off her second season-ending injury in as many years. The Buckeyes will also welcome back Rikki Harris, Emma Shumate and several others as what should be an experienced squad ready to make another run at the Final Four in 2023-24.