Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta isn’t sure what to expect for the 2013-14 version of the Buckeyes, but does know one thing: he’s looking forward to it.
“I don’t know if I could give a true projection or expectation for this team just yet. I think we have a chance to have a really, really good basketball team. I love the energy, I love the cohesiveness of us,” Matt said. “I’m very excited about this team.”
Matta, along with the rest of the team (except true freshmen Kam Williams and Marc Loving) met with the media Thursday, to discuss the upcoming season.
A topic sure to be a story line throughout the winter is how OSU will replace Deshaun Thomas, who led the team with an average of 19.8 points per game his junior season before deciding to enter the NBA Draft. In order to fill the void left by Thomas, Matta said it must be a team effort.
“Collectively, I think guys have got to score more,” Matta said. “I think (the offense) needs to be more well-rounded, we got to have a little more of a flow to (it). Something that we’ve tried to put a big premium on this offseason was shooting the basketball and getting more offensively skilled.”
A player that could be counted on for more offensive production is starting senior point guard Aaron Craft, who finished last season second on the team in scoring average with 10 points per game.
“As a team, I think we’ve done a great job this spring and summer understanding that we need to shoot the ball better. It can’t be one guy,” Craft said. “Even with (Thomas), we shot one of the worst percentages in (Matta)’s career here at Ohio State.”
Craft said getting open looks at the basket is a luxury that rarely comes around during games, so taking and making those shots will be vital to OSU’s success this season.
“Our biggest focus is being able to knock down open shots, elevating our shooting percentage and that opens up countless other things on the offensive end,” Craft said.
Replacing Thomas’ offensive production is not the only thing that will be a team effort, though. Junior forward LaQuinton Ross said the leadership side of things is “going to be a group effort from everybody.”
“I think you get leadership from all different angles on this team,” Ross said. “I think you got Craft who everybody knows is one of the main leaders for this team. Then you got guys like (junior guard) Shannon Scott who’s also been a leader for this team, got other guys like (junior forward) Sam Thompson who are also doing the same thing. I think this year, (the leadership)’s going to be a group effort from everybody.”
On the defensive side of the ball, however, the mindset stays the same.
“We’re never going to go away from our defense,” Matta said. “I think that may be the best thing we did last year as a group, collectively as a group was team defense.”
Matta and the Buckeyes are scheduled to open their regular season Nov. 9 at the Schottenstein Center against Morgan State at noon. OSU’s first Big Ten game is in West Lafayette, Ind., New Year’s Eve against Purdue at 1 p.m.