Among the long list of questions about this Ohio team, leadership was a high priority as the Buckeyes began the year.
The roster, which has the 16th lowest roster continuity from a season ago, according to KenPom.com, looked squarely at the captain’s question. With seemingly everything on the table, one potential candidate was considered, but ultimately coach Chris Holtman decided it was not because of lack of ability, but because of fear of overuse. Holtman fired freshman Bruce Thornton in naming six-year forward Justice Thwing, freshman Isaac Rikekele, and third-year center Zed Key as three captains. I toyed with the idea of including.
The realization that the point guard freshman starter would already have enough on his plate without assuming the role of captain kept Thornton out of such leadership meetings…for a while, at least.
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Still, with the Buckeyes losing seven of their last eight games and Thornton’s output trending downward, Holtman began including freshmen and three other captains in meetings in the days leading up to January. 21 wins over Iowa.
“We’re seeing his voice, we’re hearing him more,” Holtman said Monday. “I think of him as a normal person. Now he may not necessarily be named[as captain]but most people see him as one of the leaders of our group.” I think you are watching.”
The Buckeyes also said they still see him as a key option to turn around a season in which Ohio State’s NCAA tournament appearances are in jeopardy.
“He just told me, being a point guard is like you have to be that leader, you have to be that voice on the team.” I used it, I used my voice, and I feel like I’ve done enough work to use my voice, and the extra things I do on and off the court have made me a part of the captaincy. ”
Buckeyes need Bruce Thornton for more chances
As Ohio State kicked off 2023 with a 16-point win over Northwestern, Thornton scored only 6 points on 2-of-7 shooting, but had a season-high with just one turnover. played a role in recording 6 assists for . It was a string of outstanding performances for his 6-2, 215-pound guard, who had six straight games in which he scored in double figures and appeared in eight of his nine games to date. It was the latest record. In a buzzer-beating victory over Rutgers on December 8, Thornton remained on the court in all but his 90 seconds, scoring 10 points, five assists, four rebounds, two steals and three turnovers, the first without veteran Riquele. finished his three bouts. provide a backup.
However, things have been tough for Thornton, and therefore the Buckeyes, since beating the Wildcats. He’s the only time he’s scored in double figures in his last eight games, and he shoots 27.8 percent (54-15) with 13 assists and eight turnovers.
A bone bruise on his right hand, a shooting wrist played a role, but so did the oft-discussed “freshman wall”.
“I was very worried about my wrist,” he said. “It didn’t shoot like I thought it would. I was down. It hit me hard, but I can’t say that’s all the reason why I got into this little problem. Points.” As a guard you are aggressive and confident but everyone has to watch out for you as a facilitator too, I think you’ll be fine because you’ve really found a balance between all three. increase.”
It builds on what Holtman said he wanted to see more from Thornton. With an offense seeking spark and a Buckeyes in need of a reset, Holtman hopes his point guard will force matters a little more.
In short, take one or two more chances each game to open up or let someone play.
“I think he has an opportunity to play with a ball that he has to take advantage of more than he has,” Holtmann said.
Thornton said he’s been more aggressive early in the season and has stayed that way in practice, but hasn’t been able to translate that into his recent games. Ohio State ranks 345th in the nation in assist percentage, and just 43.6% of his goals on the field he’s handing out helpers.
But as a point guard, getting the offense humming again is at the top of Thornton’s list of priorities. However, resting is not one of them. Despite the high number of minutes recorded in recent weeks (his 600:32 playing time is the second most on the roster), multiple players said.
“Bruce is one of the leaders on the team, and he is always talking and worrying about other people, so sometimes we go back to him and say, ‘We want you to get over it. “He’s been working incredibly hard. I have no doubt he’ll be fine soon.”
Despite the slump, leadership roles evolved
Sensabaugh mentioned Thornton’s work ethic. Holtman repeatedly uses several variations of the phrase “everyday man” to describe Thornton’s approach to the game. That’s why the director said that Thornton’s addition to the team’s leadership was an organic evolution, even if his personal contribution diminished.
“It’s a byproduct of the position and the fact that he’s a consistent worker with a consistent effort,” the coach said. “Bruce is truly a coach’s dream young man. He wants to do what coaches want and expect.”
Thornton said it was strange at first to be in the leadership room with older players like Sue Wing, who was a sophomore at the University of California when Thornton was a freshman in high school, but he found it odd. I adapted.
“It was a new experience, especially for a man who is four or five years older than you,” he said. “I’m just talking to them with respect. I’m trying to win, but please know that it comes from respect and respect that comes from brotherly love. They can always yell at me and I can yell at them, but it’s respectful.”
Thornton said the Buckeyes “could do a better job” on and off the court “how Ohio State is represented” by showing character, humility and respect in an area freshmen said. In addition to his actions, his voice comes into play.
So, will that put an end to Ohio’s month-long recession? Only time will tell, but Thornton said he’s doing his best heading into Thursday’s home game against Wisconsin.
“[Holtmann]is just as confident now and everyone is just as confident with me,” he said. “It’s one of the most reassuring things you can hear from him, especially when you’re feeling down. I’m confident going into Wisconsin next game.”
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