Time To Peek At 2018-19 Hoops
The dust has finally settled, and Ohio State basketball coach Chris Holtmann must address the holes in his starting lineup for the 2018-2019 season.
The senior departures of Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams and Andrew Dakich creates a dilemma as core leadership and scoring pieces exit Columbus. Adding to that, redshirt junior Keita Bates-Diop announced that he will enter the NBA draft and hire an agent, effectively removing his eligibility. Bates-Diop is certainly the biggest loss as replacing his production will be a tall task for this team.
The only returning scholarship senior will be point guard C.J. Jackson, so Holtmann will be dealing with another young team in his second season. The Buckeyes are welcoming four freshmen to the team, and Holtmann hinted the staff may still add players to the roster. The early assumptions point to targeting graduate transfers similar to Dakich this past season.
With all of these pieces coming into the program, the starting lineup needs fixed to fit Holtmann’s style of play. Here are my early predictions for the lineup that takes the floor against Cincinnati in November.
PG – C.J. Jackson, 6’1” Senior
Point guard and center will be the easiest positions to pencil in for the entirety of the season. Jackson returns to the Buckeyes after a stellar junior season. He will be the Buckeyes’ returning leading scorer averaging 12.6 points and shooting nearly 38 percent from three.
We finally saw Jackson’s three-point numbers approach the range that he showed in his junior college days. The next step for Jackson is elevating into a leadership role. If he wants to continue to emerge in his final year as a Buckeye, he must prove to be Holtmann’s go-to guy on the floor.
SG – Musa Jallow, 6’5” Sophomore
There are several options for the shooting guard position, but Jallow fits the definition of one in Holtmann’s system. A tall and long winger that is defensive minded is someone that will likely make their way into this lineup, and Jallow represents this.
This does not mean his offensive game will continue to struggle, but rather it will develop at a slower pace than others. With that said, he showed some flashes of offensive brilliance early on in his freshman year. The biggest step this upcoming season will be an increase in minutes, and he has the highest ceiling of potential if Holtmann rolls with him in the starting lineup.
SF – Andre Wesson, 6’6” Junior
After looking like a last-minute addition to the 2017 recruiting class, Wesson has developed nicely in his two years as a Buckeye. We always knew he was a positive on defense, but his offensive game rose to new levels this past season. The numbers do not show it, but his shooting range really started to develop once he became a starter.
Elevating his three-point efficiency to 35 percent, Wesson can further develop into a long-range specialist for the Buckeyes. He might need to, too, because Jackson and forward Micah Potter are the only other returning players with a percentage over 30 percent. He should have plenty of opportunities to do this because his starting status is an early assumption for the upcoming season.
PF – Jaedon Ledee, 6’7” Freshman
Here is my only surprise choice for this potential lineup. It would be easy to insert Potter in this spot, but I believe Holtmann prefers him in a relief role behind center Kaleb Wesson. Having depth on the bench is important, and it is why I give the freshman an edge to start.
Ledee is the country’s 92nd ranked recruit in 247 Sport’s Composite rankings for the 2018 class. He will be a welcomed member of this lineup because he specializes as a scorer. In the purest of forms, Ledee has a feel for scoring in all ways possible, both as a shooter and a slasher. In his high school days, he showcased his athletic ability as a long wing that will attack the basket, but he will have to make a few adjustments in order to handle the four position.
As the true definition of a stretch four, Ledee will make things difficult for those who guard him. On the other side, he will be undersized defensively, but his athleticism helps make up for it. When it comes to the freshman class, the name I keep on hearing is shooting guard Luther Muhammad. While he is a great player, he still needs time to get bigger in the weight room to contend in the physical Big Ten. Ledee is the most prepared to start and play right away for the Buckeyes.
C – Kaleb Wesson, 6’9” Sophomore
The younger Wesson showed tremendous promise in his freshman season. At a school that has suffered many recent busts from their frontcourt players, Wesson was an encouraging sight going forward.
Wesson endured some growing pains on the defensive end, but he learned how to manage and limit his foul trouble problems. He must continue to grow in that aspect if the Buckeyes want to contend in the Big Ten next season. While the bench is full of talent, it will be young and inexperienced. Potter would be the only frontcourt player on the bench with any experience, so it is imperative that both are smart with fouls.
When on the floor, Wesson has all the ability to develop into the offense’s focal point. Featuring a version of the hook shot, Wesson has the makeup of a traditional power post player. His ceiling is extremely high, and averaging a double-double is very realistic with his potential.
There are very few words to describe just how much Holtmann overachieved in his first season in Columbus. The coaching job was top-notch, but the next season might be even tougher.
Without a go-to guy in Bates-Diop when the offense is stalling, there will be many questions as to which player will step up. Early indications point to Jackson carrying a significant load of it, and he must in order for the team to be a threat from deep.
Holtmann and his staff have many questions to answer before the team travels to Fifth Third Arena to open the season against the Cincinnati Bearcats.