After losing four freshman transfers last season, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta is confronting that problem head-on this year.
It started during the recruiting process itself. Three of the four departed players came from out of state, and this year’s trio of true freshmen all have Ohio roots and perhaps a greater appreciation of the university that comes with being raised in Ohio. More than that, however, Matta is trying to stress to his young group that the first year is the hardest but their commitment will be rewarded.
“It’s like I told our guys at the start of the season: I said, ‘Hey, somebody may transfer. It’s an epidemic in college basketball,’ ” he said at Big Ten Basketball Media Day on Thursday.
“You have to get guys that have both feet in and are committed. As a young player, you have more bad days than good days in the beginning. If you’re looking for the door if things don’t go your way, you’re probably not going to be the type of player that you want to be. I like the guys. I think we’ve got guys that appreciate the university – not saying those guys didn’t – but I like who we’ve got in the program today.”
Throughout his press conference, he continued to stress how happy he was with this year’s crop of true freshmen — 4-star center Derek Funderburk, 3-star center Micah Potter and 3-star shooting guard Andre Wesson.
He said he wasn’t ready yet to say whether or not any or all of them would play this season, but he likes what he’s seen from them thus far.
“I really, really like what the new guys have brought,” he said. “They’re doing what they’re supposed to do and they’re embracing their roles. Each guy brings something a little different to our team that I really like. I don’t know just yet what we’re going to do in terms of that but in my mind I think all of them can contribute in one way or another.”
That sense of optimism applies to everyone else, as well. After missing the NCAA Tournament last season, Matta returns every key contributor from last year’s team and believes the Buckeyes are better positioned for a big run this season.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good vibe right now in our program just in terms of the mindset, the energy in practice, the cohesiveness,” he said. “We’re competing every day. From the standpoint of making sure we have a higher level maturity about us and a better understanding of what it takes to compete at this level, that’s kind of been the big thing. I like where we are today.”