Skull Session: Ryan Day Focused on “The Ones That Are Buckeyes,” D'Angelo Russell Loved Returning to Ohio State and Kelsey Mitchell Mourned the Loss of Her Dad on Father’s Day

By Chase Brown on June 20, 2024 at 5:00 am
Ryan Day and Tony Alford
Adam Cairns / USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Skull Session.

C.J. Stroud → Ryan Day → D'Angelo Russell.

It is indeed.

Have a good Thursday.

 “THE ONES THAT ARE BUCKEYES.” With questions looming over Ohio State's quarterback competition and position battles on the offensive line, Ryan Day had much to discuss on Tuesday. Still, Day had enough time to address some other offseason developments — some silly, like Caleb Downs in running back meetings, and some serious, like Erin Dunston leaving for Michigan.

About 15 minutes into the head coach’s 20-minute press conference, Doug Lesmerises of THE Podcast asked Day to address the latter scenario. That question and answer looked like this:

“Ryan, you lose an important staffer to a promotion at Michigan. It's the second time someone has gone to Michigan this offseason. How do you react to that? Could someone like that take information that was learned here that could help Michigan and hurt Ohio State? How do you react to that?” Lesmerises asked.

“All good questions,” Day said. “I just want to talk about the guys that are here – the staff members that are here, the coaches that are here, the players that are here, the ones that are Buckeyes.”

And that was it.

That was the answer.

But I loved it.

Day could have disowned Tony Alford and Dunston and called them cowards, deserters or traitors. Instead, he took the high road – one few choose to travel in our culture. In his five years as Ohio State's head coach, Day has chosen that road several times. It's who he is. That makes me all the more thankful he is the program's leader.

 THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN. This week was “Vet Week” for the Ohio State men's basketball program. On Monday and Tuesday, former players returned to their alma mater to work out and scrimmage against the 2024-25 Buckeyes. 

Among them was D'Angelo Russell, a consensus All-American in his lone season at Ohio State. Now a well-known NBA veteran – Russell has spent nine seasons with the Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves and Lakers – Russell told Adam Jardy of The Columbus Dispatch on Tuesday that he loved being back on campus this week.

“I think a lot of places probably got six or seven guys and when it’s time to play open gym or do something, there’s not enough faces,” Russell said. “For us, we’ve got unlimited faces. Everybody’s here. It’s crowded right now. We’ve got two courts going, guys sitting out mad they’re not on the floor. It’s a big deal to be here. Everybody wants to be a part of it.”

Unlimited faces could be an understatement.

In addition to Russell, here are some of the people who returned to Columbus and Ohio State this week: Clark Kellogg, Ron Stokes, Ron Lewis, Matt Terwilliger, Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, Evan Ravenel, Trevor Thompson, Jae'Sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop, Andre Wesson, Kaleb Wesson, Duane Washington Jr., EJ Liddell and Brice Sensabaugh.

"It's a special, special place," Bates-Diop told Jardy. “My (NBA) teammates in other locker rooms – we talk about what schools we come from, and they don't really talk to their former teammates or go back to their former school. Maybe every now and then they pop in, but this is a yearly thing for us.”

While “Vet Week” has occurred for the past few years, Russell and Bates-Diop agreed that this summer's event had a different aura from start to finish. They credited new head coach Jake Diebler for that.

“This is family, man,” Russell said. “When you go to other schools they might create this content to make it look like something it’s not, but our group is what you see. Everybody here is a part of it. Everybody here is a small part of it, which makes it a big deal.”

That is a big deal.

“Vet Week” is great.

I wonder, will Ohio State football ever have its own version?

They should.

 “I JUST MISS MY DAD A LOT.” On Sunday, the Indiana Fever defeated the Chicago Sky, 91-83, at home. Former Ohio State basketball star Kelsey Mitchell was integral to the team's win, collecting 17 points and four rebounds. Yet, as her teammates celebrated after the game, Mitchell had a stoic expression on her face.

That's because she had other stuff on her mind.

"To all the fathers out there, happy Father's Day," Mitchell told fans from the floor of Gainbridge Fieldhouse. "I've been fortunate to have a really great father in my life for the past 28 years who passed recently. To all the fathers out there, keep doing your thing, we couldn't be here without you guys."

Mitchell's dad, Mark, died in March at 56 years old. He is survived by his wife, Cheryl, as well as Kelsey and her three siblings Cameron, Kevin and Chelsea.

"Family has been everything, and I've been able to see my mom in decent spirits, considering losing the love of her life," Mitchell said after the game. "For me, my support system is my family and friends, I think that has taken me over the top."

From Chloe Peterson of The Indy Star:

Her dad was always involved in sports, playing football at Eastern Kentucky before becoming a basketball coach. Sports came naturally to all of his children — both Kelsey and Chelsea played basketball at Ohio State, where Mark was an assistant coach for their entire college career. In 2018, after both Kelsey and Chelsea graduated from Ohio State, he went on to coach in the Cincinnati Public School System, as well as Wilberforce University.

After Kelsey was drafted to the Fever, she and her dad would frequently talk about basketball — he was the first person she called to vent her frustrations or celebrate her wins. Living just a couple hours away, her parents would frequently come to home Fever games in Indianapolis to support her.

Now, she's working through a new normal in her first WNBA season where she can't see her dad in the stands cheering her on.

"I just miss my dad a lot," Mitchell said. "Just having to do this without him, this lifestyle, I always expected my parents to be around, both of them, so it's a new experience for me, but I'm embracing it. I feel good about the 28 years I had with my dad."


Mitchell also has a new normal in the number of eyes on her longtime Fever team. With the addition of Fever rookie Caitlin Clark, Indiana has been breaking viewership records across multiple networks. Those extra eyes, though, come with extra criticism — especially with diehard fans who expected their favorite player in Clark to win with the Fever immediately.

But Mitchell, who had a slow start to the season because of an ankle injury, knows how to block out the noise — it's something her dad taught her while she was growing up.

"I feel prepared," Mitchell said. "My dad prepared me for every kind of moment. I can go into any atmosphere, any circumstance, and be able to come out smelling like fresh air, and that's because of my dad. Anything you throw at me, I'm gonna get back up."

Yes, you will, Kelsey.

Yes, you will.

 THE REAL DEAL. In recent weeks, our website has had a lot of Tavien St. Clair #content. Sorry, not sorry. This kid's incredible. To close the Thursday Skull Session, I will share some videos from his performance at the Elite 11 Finals on Tuesday and Wednesday. I hope you like them.

 YOU KNOW WHO ELSE IS THE REAL DEAL?... Former Ohio State swimmer Hunter Armstrong, who qualified for his second Olympics with his performance at the 2024 U.S. Team Trials in Indianapolis. After winning a gold medal in the 4x100 relay at the Tokyo Games, Armstrong will look to defend that prize in Paris.

What a beast.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “The Boys Are Back In Town” - Thin Lizzy.

 CUT TO THE CHASE. Fired coach remains the best job in the entire world... The Catch: Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder grab in the 1954 World Series “wasn’t no lucky catch”... Baby moose trapped in a lake is saved by Alaska man and police as its worried mom watches... Can Grimace save the Mets’ season?

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