Ohio State employees ‘excited’ for ‘challenges’ of 2022-23’s new-look Buckeye roster

When the Ohio State men’s basketball team takes the court to start the 2022-23 season in early November, the group is not going to look very similar to the one that last played at Value City Arena in March. Be it to graduation, the NBA Draft or the transfer portal, the Buckeyes lost 10 players from the 15-man roster last year.

Some of these players – forwards Kyle Young and Harrison Hookfin, guards Jimmy Sotos, Jamari Wheeler and Cedric Russell and center Joey Brunk – had no choice in the matter as their college eligibility was up. Others-guard meechie johnson and forward justin ahrens –elected for greener pastures and transferred.

Heading into last season, the Scarlet and Gray knew forward EJ Liddell would declare for the NBA Draft following his junior year and it became clear over the second half of the season that guard Malaki Branham was a one-and-done player. Both players were selected in the draft last month.

In addition to returning players, such as junior center ZedKey and his classmate guard Eugene Brown IIIOhio State expects to have forwards Justice Sueing and Seth Towns, graduate players who each essentially missed all of last year, healthy and contributing again. The Buckeyes also tapped into the transfer portal on three occasions, landing small forward Tanner Holden from Wright State, shooting guard Sean McNeill from Wester Virginia and point-forward Issac Likekele from Oklahoma State.

Such is the way of college basketball these days.

“It’s hard to explain to people who maybe dip into college basketball and view it come March Madness the intricacies of roster construction in today’s climate of college basketball,” Scarlet and Gray head coach Chris Holtman said on a recent appearance on 97.1 The Fan’s The Buckeye Show. “If you just dip in and out, it’s hard to fully (understand), we don’t have a three-year rule in college basketball.”

While Ohio State has been more willing to go to the transfer portal to fill out the roster in recent years, it hasn’t come at the expense of recruiting high school players. The Buckeyes have the sixth-ranked class in 2022, for the 247Sports Composite, arriving on campus this summer.

This group includes shooting guard Roddy Gayle Jr.pointguard Bruce Thorntoncenter Felix Okparasmall forward Brice Sensabaugh – all top-62 players in the class – and shooting guard Bowen Hardman. Holtmann has said in the past that he expects these freshmen to contribute right away for the Scarlet and Gray.

Ohio State will round out the roster with two walk-on players in Citadel transfer Owen Spencer and Colby Baumann.

“We’ve got a young group of really talented freshmen combined with some really impactful transfers,” Holtmann explained of his roster. “And let’s be honest, we needed that. We lost a lot with this last group. We knew we were gonna lose some guys like Kyle Young and some other guys, but again, we knew this class was gonna be critical and important. And then adding to the best freshmen class we’ve had with some really strong transfers, it’s really helpful.”

There is plenty of uncertainty as to how this roster will play out and how things fit together. With so many new faces, Holtmann and his staff will have to piece together how the talent works as the Buckeyes look to navigate a tough non-conference schedule and the Big Ten’s gauntlet.

But that is the way of college basketball, especially these days, when players can come and go as they please. It’s up to the coaching staff to formulate the best roster possible and get it to work on a year-to-year basis.

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While Holtmann acknowledges that this won’t be easy in 2022-23, he and his staff embrace the challenge that awaits them.

“Certainly there are some challenges ahead of us as there are for every college basketball program, but certainly when you lose the kind of production we lost,” he said. “But we’re excited about those challenges, excited about the feeling that we have and being here and seeing this thing through. We couldn’t be more excited as a group or really as a coaching staff moving forward.”

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