Micah Potter’s transfer hurts Buckeyes this season, could help long term

Barbara J. Perenic / The Columbus Dispatch

With the Ohio State Buckeyes set to tip off their 2018-19 men’s basketball season Wednesday night, Monday afternoon’s news was more shocking due to the timing of it than anything. Just two days before the season opener, the team announced that forward Micah Potter will transfer from the program.

“We appreciate Micah’s contributions to our program and we wish him the very best moving forward,” Holtmann said in a press release.

Micah’s dad, Tim, issued a statement to Lettermen Row following the announcement as well.

“We are thankful to Coach Matta, Gene Smith, and the University for giving Micah a chance to live his dream,” he said. “We will forever be grateful. We appreciate Coach Holtman and his staff for their training and hard work in helping the team get to the dance last year. We wish all our friends and families in basketball Buckeye Nation all the best.”

Entering his junior year, Potter averaged 4.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game in 59 games (16 starts) during his only two seasons at Ohio State. The forward saw his minutes decrease in 2017-18, head coach Chris Holtmann’s first season leading the Buckeyes. Potter averaged 4.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in just 10.1 minutes per game. Part of that was possibly due to an ankle injury he suffered early in the season. He averaged quite a few more minutes prior to the injury but didn’t notch more than 19 minutes in a game after returning December 19. Prior to the injury, he averaged nearly 20 minutes a night in the first four games of the season.

While no reason was mentioned for Potter transferring, his minutes decreasing last season paired with potentially realizing his role this season may have been key factors. Then again, we will likely never truly know.

In Ohio State’s exhibition game against UNC Pembroke last Thursday, Potter led the team with 13 points and six rebounds in 10 minutes. But when he was the third-to-last player off the bench, in front of only former walk-on Joey Lane and walk-on Danny Hummer, it was very telling. Holtmann had nothing but positive things to say about the junior following the game, but him only playing 10 minutes and being that far down the bench was more telling than anything that Holtmann could have even said himself.

“I thought he rebounded the ball well, really well. We all know with Micah offensively, he’s always really been a guy who offensively can do some things,” Holtmann said. “He can shoot the ball. He’s got great lift around the rim. He’s gotten where he can catch the ball. It’s defense and defensive rebounding at the end of the day for him. Because offensively he’s really gifted in some areas. I thought our guys did a great job finding him. He did a great job attacking the rim.”

While quite surprising given the timeframe of the announcement, Potter transferring will hurt Ohio State this year but could be beneficial in 2019-20.

This season, the scarlet and gray now only have three players who are 6-foot-7 or taller: Kaleb Wesson (6-foot-9), Jaedon Ledee (6-foot-9), and Kyle Young (6-foot-8). With Wesson and Young expected to start, that leaves Ledee as the only big man off the bench. Potter was never going to start over a healthy Wesson, but his departure is a loss in a frontcourt that was already thin. He would have only managed 10-14 minutes a game, much like he did during his two years at Ohio State, but now Holtmann and company have to find a way to make up for that missing minutes due to Potter’s departure. Now, the Buckeyes will have to lean on either Ledee or go small when Wesson is out of the game.

It also increases the pressure on Wesson and Ledee to produce. Wesson was solid during his freshman season last year, but his 2.8 fouls in 20.7 minutes per game were his biggest problem. Now, he will not only be forced to play 30-plus minutes a game most nights, but he must remain out of foul trouble while going toe-to-toe against opposing big men and producing offensively and on the glass as well. For Ledee, he is Ohio State’s lone backup big man. The true freshman will be thrown into the fire from the moment the season tips off.

A member of former head coach Thad Matta’s final recruiting class at Ohio State, Potter never really lived up to expectations from the moment he arrived on campus in 2016. The 6-foot-9 forward added depth up front, but he was never a gamechanger. Many thought Potter could be a big man that could shoot from the outside, stretching the defense and force opposing forwards outside, but he shot just 32.4 percent from beyond the arc in his two seasons as a Buckeye.

With a stacked, three-player recruiting class in 2019 that consists of five-star point guard DJ Carton, and four-star forwards Alonzo Gaffney and EJ Liddell, all of which are top-50 prospects,1 Potter’s departure opens another scholarship for Ohio State following this season. Holtmann and company can now either add another recruit to their 2019 class or bring in a graduate transfer for the 2019-20 season.

While it will hurt Ohio State’s depth (or lack thereof) this season, allowing Holtmann to add another player that he wants in the fold in 2019-20 may turn into even more good things in the end. Add in the fact that Ohio State’s frontcourt next season will likely consist of Wesson, Liddell, Gaffney, Young, and LeDee, adding a backcourt player in place of Potter seems like a logical, more ideal plan.

The news that Potter is transferring was a bit of a surprise, but it’s not only somewhat easy to see why he made the decision, but it may help the Buckeyes going forward, even if it takes a year for Ohio State to realize that.

  1. The 2019 class is currently the seventh-best class in the country and atop the Big Ten. []