When Ohio State junior forward Jake Lorbach made the men’s basketball team as a walk-on before last season, coach Thad Matta had only one thing to say to him.
“He (told me), ‘I don’t want another Mark Titus. So just try not to do that.’ But sometimes you can’t help yourself,” Lorbach said Friday.
Titus, a former OSU walk-on who graduated in 2010, gained stardom in his Buckeye career after starting a blog known as Club Trillion. He has since written a book called “Don’t Put Me In, Coach,” chronicling his time as OSU’s goofball whose goal was to play in as many games as possible without recording any statistical significance.
Matta’s lighter side is mentioned throughout Titus’ book, but the former player’s antics — making faces behind his head coach after the team won the 2010 Big Ten Tournament, for example — led some to believe his popularity got on the coach’s nerves. Lorbach hasn’t taken the goofing around to Titus’ level quite yet, but did photobomb LeBron James during a sideline interview when the football team was taking on Wisconsin Sept. 28.
Matta denied having told Lorbach to avoid following in the footsteps of Titus, though.
“I don’t think I told him that,” Matta said with a laugh Friday. “I love Mark, still do … (but) Jake’s done a tremendous job for us.”
Lorbach made a splash Wednesday when he entered OSU’s 86-48 victory against Bryant and scored six points, the first two on a breakaway dunk where he barely jumped high enough to put the ball over the rim.
“When I was sitting on the bench for the majority of the game, my knees were feeling kind of tired from that week of practice and so I think once I got the ball on the breakaway, it was just like a lot of adrenaline and then me thinking about my knees and whether or not I was going to get high enough,” Lorbach said. “It was a split second, so fortunately I was able to get up high enough and put it down and that’s all that matters.”
The Schottenstein Center crowd — and his teammates on the bench — erupted every time Lorbach got the ball and scored against the Bulldogs, but if he had missed the dunk attempt, they might not have been so nice.
“I’m pretty sure the crowd would have reacted a lot differently,” Lorbach said with a smile.
“We might have laughed a little bit but told him to get it the next time,” junior guard Shannon Scott said Friday, speculating on the team’s reaction if Lorbach’s try had been unsuccessful.
Lorbach, who played volleyball in addition to basketball at St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio, said his performance against Bryant has been recognized on campus and social media as well.
“(I’ve) definitely gotten a lot more (Twitter) followers after that debut. People have come up to me a lot and said good job,” Lorbach said. “It’s cool getting the attention, it’s a lot different. Usually, I just walk through the shadows and now I’m kind of out there and people know who I am.”
Having only played 10 minutes the past two seasons combined, the majority of Lorbach’s time is spent on the practice court getting the scholarship players ready for their next opponent. His hard work on his own game, though, doesn’t go unnoticed by his coach.
“He does everything we need him to do,” Matta said. “For Jake, wanting to be a part of this basketball team and knowing that his role was never going to be significant by any stretch for the team, but we’re going to require him to be a great teammate and have a great attitude every single day and he’s definitely exceeding our expectations when it comes to that. For (the other players), basically the work he’s putting in, he’s here every second that they’re here and not getting to do the majority of the things they are, so when something happens, I think they’re excited for him.”
Not getting the playing time others do is something that comes with being a walk-on, and even if he does not get a chance to play Saturday when the Buckeyes are scheduled to take on North Dakota State at 8:15 p.m., Lorbach said he is just happy to get any opportunity after all his hard work.
“It definitely feels like it’s paying off finally,” Lorbach said. “I come to practice every day and do what I can to help the team and then finally, I was able to go out there and showcase what I’m able to do.”