December 6, 2012

Buckeyes want more from their bigs

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Chris Jent has had plenty of good fortune when it comes to coaching big men over the course of his career.

In Orlando, he helped mold perennial All-Star and former Magic center Dwight Howard. In Cleveland, he coached future hall of famer Shaquille O'Neal. And in his first season as an assistant at Ohio State, Jent had a two-time All-American and future NBA first round pick in Jared Sullinger manning the post.

But through the first six games of the 2012-13 OSU men's basketball team's schedule, the time that Jent spent coaching Howard, O'Neal, and Sullinger probably seems like distant memories for the Buckeyes' assistant coach.

Since Sullinger's departure, the two players that the Buckeyes' have relied on to replace the now Boston Celtic- Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams- are averaging a combined nine points and 7.5 rebounds per game. That's a far cry from the 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds that Sullinger averaged in his 37 games as a sophomore last season.

Very few could have expected either Ravenel or Williams, or even the combination of the two, to replicate what Sullinger did in his two seasons in Columbus. But most expected Ohio State's top two post players to show more than they have in the first month of this season.

A 6-foot-8 fifth-year senior, Ravenel served as Sullinger's primary backup last season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. Now posting an average of 4.2 rebounds per night as the Buckeyes' starting center, the Tampa, Fla. native said that OSU coach Thad Matta is pleased with the job that the Buckeyes' bigs have been doing on the boards, but is waiting for more them to show more from an offensive standpoint.

"Now that he sees that we can rebound the ball to a level that he's happy with, he wants us to have offensive execution," Ravenel said.

A former three-star recruit, Ravenel appears to be making the most that he can out of the opportunity that he's been given in the 19.7 minutes per game he's averaged this season. Most, however, would not say the same about Williams.

After coming to Ohio State last season as a four-star prospect and McDonald's High School All-American, Williams averaged just 6.6 minutes per game as a freshman, although he did see significant minutes in games against both Kansas and Syracuse. With the Buckeyes' opening at the center position, the Beverly Hills, Mich. native figured to be one of the difference-makers on this year's OSU squad, but is yet to crack his team's starting lineup this year.

Now averaging 15.7 minutes per night, Williams has shown flashes, albeit inconsistent ones. Perhaps no game served as more of a microcosm of his college career than the Buckeyes' 73-68 loss to Duke last week, which saw the Country Day product pull down a career-high 10 rebounds, but not make a field goal attempt in 27 minutes of action.

Williams admitted that were some positives that he could take away from OSU's trip to Durham, but also some negatives as well.

"I might miss an easy shot here or there, but I've just got to continue to finish well around the basket," Williams said. "I just gotta be consistent."

In an effort for each to improve on their skills, both post players have enlisted in the help of Jent, hoping that he can pass along some of the tips that he learned from his time as an assistant and interim head coach in the NBA. The current OSU assistant and former Buckeyes star told his players that what they're currently lacking has more to do with mindset than it does ability.

"We've talked a lot with Coach Jent, 'cause he's coached some pretty good centers," Ravenel said. "He talked a lot about being overall more aggressive. Being aggressive, an aggressive post presence, it's just a scary thing. Nobody wants to go against an overly aggressive guy for 40 minutes in a basketball game."

But regardless of how much the Buckeyes' center position improves, Ravenel knows that neither he nor Williams will likely be the identity of this team. With stars like Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft roaming the perimeter, Ravenel and Williams need to first and foremost focus on rebounding, and getting the ball into the hands of OSU's top playmakers.

"Right now, basketball is mostly a guard's game. And we don't have that post presence. We don't have a Jared Sullinger anymore where you throw the ball down there and nine times out of 10, you get a bucket," Ravenel said. "That's just not who we are anymore."


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