Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann met with reporters on Wednesday to provide some updates on his team and also to look ahead to Thursday night’s matchup at Minnesota. Also speaking to the media was All-American forward EJ Liddell. Here are some highlights of what was said.
- This is a very challenging week with Minnesota. They have had some key transfers added this year. “They’re an old team. I feel like I’ve said that a lot this year about a lot of teams.”
- Minnesota is well coached. They almost won at Michigan State. “Big-time challenge.”
- The Buckeyes have struggled at The Barn of late. Have to expect a great environment and a really good team.
- Meechie Johnson and Jamari Wheeler are both day-to-day. Wheeler has had a foot/ankle situation that has bothered him. He has been unable to practice. Justice Sueing and Seth Towns are still both out.
- “I love the contribution that EJ has made to our program. …. His legacy is going to be one that is significant.”
- Liddell needs to be ready to lead the team tomorrow night and that’s the focus right now more than the milestones.
- It has been frustrating for the players to deal with the injuries right now. You have to focus on who is available. They haven’t been able to have a full, consistent group of players who can practice. They’ll do their best to make sure the Wheeler injury doesn’t become a long-term thing.
- Is this year weirder than last year? “I don’t know. Last year was pretty strange.” This year is more normal but more challenging because of the injuries compounded by the COVID element as well. The pauses after wins has also made things frustrating.
- George Washington transfer Jamison Battle has been a great addition for Minnesota. He played at a high level before transferring. The Gophers have needed him to step up and he has (18 ppg).
- It’s an added challenge to prepare and scout for a team that has so many transfers on the team. You’re seeing these players for the first time and changes the scouting process.
- They always felt optimistic about EJ Liddell’s possibilities because of his talent and character. You don’t ever want to put too many expectations on a kid but he’s met them. His career has been “phenomenal.” “I’ve just loved every day coaching him.” They want him to experience everything that Liddell wants in his life and for that to happen, they have to coach him every day.
- Liddell knows the expectations that come with being the team’s best player. That’s not easy for a 20-year old kid to handle so they have talked about managing that. “He just needs to be EJ.”
- Leaving a legacy means something to EJ Liddell and Kyle Young and others, but it REALLY means something to Liddell. Ohio State has given a lot to him but he’s given a lot to OSU.
- Liddell is beloved by the fan base. He’s endearing and likeable. “He’s very easy to like. But his story is still being written.”
- Looking back, it was even more important now to have gotten that IUPUI game scheduled.
- There are concerns about how sharp you’ll be after a 9-day layoff, especially with guys who haven’t practiced.”
- The Buckeyes have “a really exciting class” and they have talented players already on the roster that will grow into their roles. The recruiting class brings a very diverse set of skills. A lot of work went into landing that class. The program is losing a number of productive guys but it’s exciting “about what’s on the cusp here.”
- It’s awesome to be so close to having 1,000 career points. He was hoping to get it out of the way against Nebraska. If it happens at Minnesota, that’s great. It will be cool to have his name in the record books. He is 12 points away from 1,000.
- He’s seen some of his milestones and things like that but that’s not what he’s really focused on. If it happens, it happens.
- He hates long layovers. They have been practicing so much without any games.
- They have been trying to stay sharp during this current layoff. “Working on us.”
- He’s not trying to think about getting to 1,000 points. He’s not going to force it.
- When he came to Ohio State he wanted to be remembered forever. That’s how it was in middle school and high school so that’s what he wants at OSU as well. He feels like he’s getting closer to it. He’s not trying to think about it too much because he doesn’t want to force anything to happen.
- Chris Holtmann has never let off the gas when it comes to coaching Liddell. He always pushes Liddell “because I’m not a complete player yet and I know that. I appreciate him for that.”