Andrew Holleran/ Photo editor
The Ohio Homecoming Battle for Ohio basketball game was billed as a charity event with players split up on teams representing Columbus and Cleveland.
Charity game or not, CBS college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg said the on-court intensity found at the event “couldn’t have been any better.”
An honorary coach for Team Cleveland, which featured the likes of former OSU basketball players David Lighty, Dallas Lauderdale and Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, said the game’s level of play surpassed what perhaps most would expect in a friendly, exhibition game.
“I even think the quality of play for a typical celebrity game was higher than normal, quite honestly,” Kellogg said. “Guys were playing hard – they were trying to do the right things.”
But that’s not to say it surprised the OSU alumnus.
A former All-Big Ten and Most Valuable Player selection in 1982 himself, Kellogg said that competitive drive is instinctual.
“That’s just the nature of it. When you get out here and you’re representing your city or your team or your town – and you’re part of a roster of 10 or 11 other guys – those juices just start to percolate,” he said.
Perhaps the best example of that on Saturday was Thompson, the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
An aggressive, fully engaged and, at times, argumentative Thompson was able to impose his will under the glass for a double-double with 27 points and 10 rebounds.
Lauderdale, who was affectionately known by some OSU fans during his days as a Buckeye as “Swatter-dale,” was relentlessly swinging away at shots well into the fourth quarter.
At times, Team Columbus and Philadelphia 76ers guard Evan Turner drove into the lane with the same confidence and power as he did as a Buckeye.
Turner’s teammate Saturday, former OSU shooting guard Jon Diebler, connected on 3-of-5 shots from behind the arc for 11 points, much to the joy of the crowd inside the oppressively warm St. John Arena.
Kellogg said the players’ in-game energy speaks to their character, commitment and willingness to give.
“That’s part of the culture of being part of this university, part of Columbus,” he said. “I think as they’ve grown into young men and the importance of being able to use that platform that God has given them through their basketball ability to try to positively impact others.”
The opportunity of having players like Turner, Thompson and other former OSU players like J.J. Sullinger, Terrence Dials and Scoonie Penn all together on one afternoon, Kellogg said, is “extremely special.”
“I think it speaks to the work that all of the volunteers did in coordinating this and then also the level of commitment of those individuals that got out here,” he said. “They actually really did some work between the lines today.”