Better late than never, but never late is better, right?
After being left off the midseason Wooden Award Top 25 watch list just over three weeks ago, Ohio State Buckeyes star forward Keita Bates-Diop has been added to the Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 list. To say that it’s a well-deserved nomination would be an understatement. His absence from the midseason list came just four days after he scored a previous career-high 32 points while helping the Buckeyes pull off a stunning upset over then No.1-ranked Michigan State in Columbus. Although he didn’t get noticed much then, even following that incredible performance, it seems as though he has now.
Due to a number of different injuries, Bates-Diop played in just nine games during the 2016-17 season, the last of which was on January 1, 2017, Bates-Diop has made quite a comeback. The Buckeyes have exceeded expectations by a wide margin so far this season, and while much of that is thanks to new head coach Chris Holtmann and his staff, the redshirt junior can take plenty of credit for the turnaround as well.
While being named to the Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 list on Monday, Bates-Diop also earned his fourth Big Ten Player of the Week honors after notching a career-high 35 points,1 13 rebounds, and one assist while leading Ohio State to a win over Illinois Sunday afternoon.
Through 25 games so far this season, Bates-Diop is averaging a Big Ten-best 20.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, ad 1.7 blocks in 32.2 minutes per game while shooting 51 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc. He’s not only the Buckeyes’ top scorer, but the 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward’s length defensively causes plenty of problems for opposing offenses as well. His versatility and ability to guard a number of different positions also helps the Buckeyes tremendously.
Bates-Diop is the first Buckeye since Jared Sullinger (2011) to be named Big Ten Player of the Week four times in the same season. With six games (three weeks) remaining in the regular season, the redshirt junior has a chance to be the first Ohio State player to ever be given the honors five times in one season.
After being named on the Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 list, it seems as though the college basketball world has (finally) taken notice of what Bates-Diop has done in Columbus. Already a front-runner to be named the Big Ten Player of the Year, it really is incredible the season the star forward has had after missing the majority of the 2016-17 campaign.
Prior to the season, the Buckeyes weren’t even projected to make the NIT at season’s end. A few months later, the scarlet and gray seem to be in the driver’s seat to make the NCAA Tournament. Not only are they projected to make the tournament, but many expect the Buckeyes to make some noise in March as well. There’s something special brewing in Columbus with Holtmann leading the way, but it seems as though Ohio State will go as far as Bates-Diop takes them. While players like C.J. Jackson, Jae’Sean Tate, Kaleb Wesson, and others have been big-time contributors, the forward’s greatness so far this season can’t go unnoticed—and it seems as though it hasn’t. Watch out, the redshirt junior may be able to take Ohio State deep into March if he’s on his game.
- He shot 10-of-16 from the floor and 13-15 from the free-throw line. Talk about efficient. [↩]