The jump from high school to college can be a difficult adjustment for any student, and student-athletes are no exception.
The Ohio State women’s basketball team features three true freshmen this season. Forward Tori McCoy and guards Kiara Lewis and Jensen Caretti are currently going through the same adaptation process many new college students face.
“It was a struggle starting off my first day,” McCoy said. “My first week, actually, I was just confused about everything.”
The jump can be tough for students from small towns, especially at a large institution like OSU. Caretti is originally from Clarington, Ohio, a town which, according to the 2015 U.S. census, had a population of just 380.
“It’s a big environmental change,” Caretti said. “I never expected to go this big in the first place.”
The path to OSU was different for all three. Lewis attended Whitney M. Young High School in Chicago, the same school that produced teammate Linnae Harper.
During her senior year of high school, Lewis averaged 24.4 points, 5.3 assists, 7.0 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game. Her efforts landed her the Gatorade Player of the Year award in the state of Illinois.
Ranked as the 24th best prospect in the 2016 class by ESPN, Lewis was recruited by the likes of Texas A&M and Tennessee, but said that OSU was the best fit.
“I felt that the coaches were very caring and that the team was going to be pretty good,” Lewis said. “We could possibly do something big.”
McCoy is a product of Saint Thomas More High School in Champaign, Illinois. She was a finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year award during her senior year, a campaign which saw her average 20.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. ESPN ranked her as the 10th best player in her class.
McCoy’s list of college options included Baylor, Tennessee and South Carolina, but she said that she felt a different level of comfort with OSU.
“The players, they made me feel welcome and that’s a big thing for me,” McCoy said. “I just enjoyed being around the girls.”
Caretti was named Ms. Basketball for Ohio after her senior year at River High School in Hannibal, Ohio. She averaged 25.0 points, 11.0 boards and carried a shooting percentage of over 58 percent that year, leading to an ESPN ranking of 31st nationally.
Caretti also excelled at volleyball in high school. She said that she considered playing collegiate volleyball instead of basketball, but the opportunities were far greater for basketball.
“I didn’t get any big offers like I did for basketball,” Caretti said. “I never played on a travel team for volleyball, so I didn’t really get any looks because our school was so small.”
Louisville and South Carolina were among the schools who looked at Caretti for basketball, but the guard said her decision to become a Buckeye was made due to the team’s recent resurgence and the fact that the school was close to home.
Now, all three players have joined forces in Columbus and are helping each other get acclimated to life in college.
“We actually became close really fast,” McCoy said. “They are always pushing me and I’m always pushing them too.”
The tight-knit group remains together on and off the court.
“We all come to the gym together, leave together — stuff like that,” Lewis said.
As they settle in, McCoy, Lewis and Caretti are looking ahead to what they believe could be a special season at OSU.
“I think we are going to go pretty far this year,” McCoy said. “We’re looking pretty good and we’re doing better in practices every day.”
The end goal for the incoming players is obvious: Win it all.
“Hopefully, we can expect a national championship,” Caretti said. “We are a great team.”