Buckeyes

Kaleb Wesson, three-point shooter?

Eleven Warriors

Kaleb Wesson lost nearly 60 pounds between his junior year of high school and freshman year with the Ohio State Buckeyes. The big man knew that in order to compete with the best big men in the Big Ten, let alone college basketball, he had to get leaner, add more muscle, and be able to somewhat run the floor, all while being in the best shape he’s ever been in.

While losing weight and adding muscle was his main focus going into freshman year of college, ahead of his sophomore season with the Buckeyes, his focus was to be able to knock down shots from beyond the arc, all while getting in even better shape. It would never be the strongest part of his game, but just be able to make open threes and have the defense worry about him was important. It would the opposing big man to stay with him even outside of the arc, rather than the opponent being able to just stay near the basket and help out other defenders.

After losing playmakers such as Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate, two of the top-three scorers on the team in 2017-18, it was clear that other players had to step up for the 2018-19 Buckeyes. Wesson would (and is) one of those players. After averaging 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game during his freshman season, the All-Big Ten Freshman would not only play much more, but he needed to expand his game as well ahead of his sophomore campaign. A more well-rounded game would allow Wesson to not only have more success but be able to be a go-to player on a team filled with plenty of newcomers and inexperience.

Shooting more outside shots and making three-pointers was something that the Ohio State center worked heavily on all offseason.

“I am trying to work on my guarding skills, developing a perimeter shot while still working on my stuff in the post,” Wesson said during the offseason. “I thought that one aspect of my game would get me there, but I had a skewed way of thinking.”

While it’s a very small sample size, his improved three-point shot was even more clear during Ohio State’s 89-61 win over South Carolina State Sunday afternoon. Wesson knocked down 3-of-4 shots from beyond the arc while scoring a team-leading 18 points. Those three three-pointers were more than he made during his entire freshman campaign.

Last season, he attempted just six three-pointers, making two of them. Four games into his second season with Ohio State, Wesson has already attempted 10 shots from beyond the arc, making five. It’s quite a small sample size, but him adding a three-point shot to his game is very evident. A 50 percent clip from three-point will likely be hard to keep, but it’s clear that he can knock down a three-pointer when he’s open. At the worst, even if his efficiency from deep drops to the mid-30s or around 40 percent, he at least makes the defense worry about him from the outside, which completely changes the game.

In the always-evolving game of basketball, the current landscape features plenty of big men that can not only create shots for themselves but run the floor and knock down open three-pointers as well. While centers who can dominate in the post are still needed, ones who can play outside as well as inside are even more important. Wesson has realized that and while watching this past June’s NBA Draft, it made him realize that he needs to continue to evolve his game.

“I watched the draft, and a lot of guys like me weren’t getting picked,” Wesson mentioned in July after watching the draft. “I noticed that I am going to have to change myself, or I am not going to be able to get there.”

So far, so good. The 6-foot-9, 270-pounder has repeatedly talked about how he has improved his conditioning while continuing to work on his frame. Considering he has slimmed down from 289 pounds last season to 270 this year, he’s doing a great job in doing so. Adding a decent long-range shot seems to be something else he has worked on. All of those things will allow Wesson to stay on the court longer and play more minutes. That’s been evident through four games this season.

Wesson was already one of Ohio State’s most important players this season. With Micah Potter’s unexpected departure from the program just two days before the season tipped off, the sophomore big man became even more important for the Buckeyes. So far, his hard work and improvements throughout his game have been noticeable. It’s one of the many reasons why Ohio State, who was once again deemed to finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten, is off to a 4-0 start to 2018-19 season.