In college sports, programs have to constantly focus on the future.
With the short shelf life of collegiate athletes — four full years of play maximum — programs have to always be spinning things forward or they risk falling behind.
For the No. 11 Ohio State men’s basketball team (15-2, 2-2), the future is now.
Despite having a starting lineup that consists of three juniors and two seniors, freshman forward Marc Loving is beginning to make a name for himself.
The Toledo, Ohio, native has started the season averaging 13.4 minutes and seven points per game, often coming off the bench for junior forward LaQuinton Ross.
Loving has been a hard worker since he arrived on campus this past summer, OSU coach Thad Matta said.
“I love Marc,” Matta said after Ohio State’s 79-62 victory against North Dakota State Dec. 14. “From the day he showed up here in June, he’s had a great way about him. He has a lot of energy in practice, he has a lot of energy in doing things.”
Against NDSU, Loving totaled 12 points, the second best output of his brief OSU career. His career high came against Nebraska — an 84-53 Buckeye win — when Loving scored 13 points in 17 minutes played.
After the game against the Cornhuskers, Loving said being a player who comes off the bench means he has to come into the game and help in any way he can.
“We just try to bring a lot of energy to the game,” Loving said. “We feeling like our energy off the bench can affect the game in a major way.”
Since Big Ten play began, Matta has been putting Loving on the court more often, with his average minutes per game going up to 16.5. This has also seen Loving’s scoring increase to average of 9.5 points a game.
Loving has also seen significant playing time in OSU’s big games, with the Buckeyes’ two road games this season — Nov. 16 against then-No. 17 Marquette and Jan. 7 against then-No. 5 Michigan State — being the two games in which he has played the most. Loving played 22 minutes against Marquette and 23 against MSU. Although in the Buckeyes recent home loss to then-No. 20 Iowa, Loving only totaled 10 minutes.
Against the Spartans, Loving was also on the floor for most of the late second half comeback attempt and overtime period.
Matta said during Monday’s Big Ten teleconference that Loving has been playing well and Matta expects the freshman to continue to grow.
“He’s ready to play at the highest level,” Matta said. “He’s been a consistent player and on the rise since day one.”
The change from high school to college can be humbling to many as their production goes down, something Loving said he has experienced as well.
“Last year, I think any time I had the ball was a good shot,” Loving said Dec. 17 to the media. “But now we swing the ball, we get the ball from one side of the floor to the other pretty fast. So it’s hard for defenses to close out. We’ll have a lot of open shots, a lot of ball reversals that will give us open opportunities.”
Loving and guard Kam Williams are the lone freshmen on the squad, with guard Amedeo Della Valle as the only sophomore. With only three underclassmen on the squad, OSU might look to these players more in the near future, as they have already began making waves.
Next up, the Buckeyes are set to hit the road to take on Big Ten rival Minnesota (13-4, 2-2) Thursday at 9 p.m.
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