The Ohio State Buckeyes’ 2019 senior class for men’s basketball was supposed to be a very good one. The five-player class, which consisted of shooting guards JaQuan Lyle and Austin Grandstaff, center Daniel Giddens, point guard A.J. Harris, and small forward Mickey Mitchell, was ranked No. 5 in the country and atop the Big Ten in the 2015 recruiting cycle. That class, or at least some of it, was supposed to stick around and be a group of seniors this last year that the Buckeyes could not only lean on to produce on the court but for leadership and accountability as well.
Fast forward to 2019 and the senior class was, well, very different from what it was originally supposed to look like. When Ohio State celebrated its Senior Day on March 10, it consisted of three players, only one of which was in Columbus as a freshman. Former walk-on Joey Lane was the lone four-year letterman, while guards C.J. Jackson and Keyshawn Woods transferred into the program.1
While the original five-player class all transferred from the program prior to their junior seasons and even before head coach Chris Holtmann came to the scarlet and gray in June 2017, Holtmann and the Buckeyes couldn’t have asked for much more from their new-look, three-player senior class.
Jackson was never meant to be a point guard, especially a starting point guard and a full-time ballhandler at that, but he was just that and then some for Ohio State, especially this past season as a senior. While being a veteran and leader on the team, the combo guard-turned-point guard averaged 12 points (second-most on the team), four rebounds, and 3.5 assists (first), and 1.2 steals (most) all while shooting 41 percent from the floor and 37 percent from beyond the arc. Some Ohio State fans seemed to think that he shot too much or wasn’t all that good at times, but Jackson played a very key role in the team’s success this season.
On top of that, Jackson played a key role in Ohio State’s incredible run to the second round of the NCAA Tournament during Holtmann’s first season in Columbus in 2017-18. While the 2018 seniors did their part and the Buckeyes should be very, very grateful for all that they did, Jackson also played a key role during his junior season as well. Ohio State was projected to finish as one of the worst teams in the Big Ten, but they not only finished second in the conference but made it to the Big Dance as well. It was something that no one thought they could do but thanks to the coaching staff and players, it became a reality. Along with those seniors, Jackson was second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per game. He also led the team with 3.9 assists a game as well.
Woods seemed to be very underwhelming throughout much of the season, at least on the stat sheet, but the fifth-year senior stepped up when it mattered most for the Buckeyes. He averaged just 8.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 42 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three-point range, but seemed to save his best for last. Although it seemed as though he couldn’t find much of a rhythm with his shot throughout much of the season, Woods stepped up in a game that was essentially a play-in game in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, with the winner of the Ohio State-Indiana game seemingly punching a ticket into the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes won the game and Woods played a key role, scoring 18 points and securing seven rebounds and four assists while knocking down 9-of-13 shots from the field. Ohio State needed that, and Woods stepped up when his team needed him to.
Lane, the guy who was so much more important than many may realize, especially if you just look at the stats. There’s a reason I saved him for last. Founder of the Towel Gang. Could always be counted on to make sure a teammate has his chin up. Was always celebrating on the bench. From a walk-on to a (very deserved) scholarship player, the senior played a vital role on the team. He may not have seen playing time unless it was in a blowout, but Lane knew his role and excelled in it, to say the least. I’ll have more on him later this week or next.
Much like the 2018 seniors, the 2019 ones need to be remembered as well. It was quite a different class, especially considering all of the transfers, but it was nothing short of a great one, both on and off the court. And for that, Buckeye Nation should be forever grateful.
Thank you, seniors.