Oct. 29, 2002
The last four seasons have been some of the more successful campaigns in Ohio State history. The Buckeyes have participated in a school record four-consecutive NCAA tournaments, claimed a share of two Big Ten titles (2000, 2002), won the 2002 Big Ten Tournament title, won 20 or more games four times and participated in the 1999 Final Four.
Jim O’Brien and the 2002-03 men’s basketball team have the chance to reach another milestone in O’Brien’s Ohio State coaching career.
Not only could the Buckeyes add to their consecutive streak of NCAA postseason appearances, after an OSU record fourth-consecutive NCAA tournament trip last year, O’Brien also could establish the Ohio State record for consecutive 20-win seasons with his fifth in as many years.
The 1960-63 teams and the 1999-2002 squads each posted 20 or more wins four-consecutive years.
Darby, Connolly Take Leadership Roles
As is the case with most seasons, several facets of the program will need to be tested before a clear view of the team’s future can be assessed. Veterans need to be replaced and underclassmen need to become leaders. The 2002-03 season will be no different.
Gone are Brian Brown, a first team All-Big Ten selection in 2002, and Boban Savovic, who claimed the most outstanding player award after leading the Buckeyes to the 2002 Big Ten Tournament title.
A pair of senior guards is poised to fill the roles vacated by Brown and Savovic. Seniors Brent Darby and Sean Connolly have patiently waited for their opportunities to carry on the success enjoyed on the Ohio State campus the last several years.
Darby, a 6-foot-1-inch point guard, is the team’s leading returning scorer at 12.8 points per game. He also has the most playing experience. He has appeared in 90 games with 48 starts as a Buckeye. He also has the most postseason experience on the OSU roster, participating in three NCAA tournaments with Ohio State. Connolly is a veteran of two NCAA tournaments in an OSU uniform. He should see a significant jump in playing time with his experience, court awareness and ability to knock down the outside shot.
Frontcourt Coming of Age
The Buckeyes were an inexperienced team when it came to post players last season. That has changed, which could mean a more balanced inside-outside attack in what has traditionally been a guard-oriented Ohio State offense under O’Brien’s direction.
Junior forward Zach Williams has started 62 of 63 games as a Buckeye. His experience as an underclassman has the coaching staff excited about his next two years in uniform. He contributed nearly 10 points a game as a sophomore while leading the Buckeyes with 5.8 rebounds a game.
Another junior, 7-foot center Velimir Radinovic, has demonstrated signs of being an inside force in the Big Ten. He will be looked upon to contribute more extensively both in the low-post offense and as an interior defensive presence.
Sophomore Terence Dials, a fan favorite as a true freshman because of his rebounding, offensive touch and powerful dunks, will challenge Radinovic for playing time.
Dials, at 6-10, 240-pounds, set an OSU freshman record for field goal percentage by making over 62 percent of his shots from the field (86-138). The coaching staff expects him to develop into a quality post player once his grasp of the offensive and defensive schemes improves.
Redshirt sophomore Matt Marinchick, a 6-10 interior player, and junior college transfer Shun Jenkins also could factor into the OSU big man rotation.
Ohio State Freshman Field Goal Pct. Records 1. .623 Terence Dials 2002 86-138 2. .569 Jermaine Tate 1996 115-202 3. .540 Perry Carter 1988 129-239 .540 Jay Burson 1986 75-139 5. .516 Carter Scott 1978 78-151 6. .512 Jason Singleton 1996 65-127
Young Guards to See More Action
Another pair of underclassmen also will get more of a look in the OSU lineup this year. Sophomore Brandon Fuss-Cheatham spent much of his freshman campaign spelling Darby at the point. That scenario may stay the same or Fuss-Cheatham could handle the ball more should Darby move to the off-guard position, where he would be freed of ball-handling duties to score on a more regular basis.
Adding to the mix at guard is Matt Sylvester, a 6-7 freshman, who was granted a medical redshirt a year ago after suffering calf and back injuries for the majority of the season. He had back surgery in the offseason but is expected to contribute this year. He retains four-years of eligibility.
Newcomer Adds Depth
Joining the veteran returning players is junior transfer Shun Jenkins. The 6-6, 235-pounder was recruited to add depth and a defensive presence to the frontcourt. As a sophomore at Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Miss., Jenkins averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds and connected on 61 percent of his shots from the field for a 22-7 team that finished in the Elite Eight of the 2002 NJCAA Tournament.
A pair of Ohio natives fill roster spots in 2002-03 after starting careers elsewhere.
Tony Stockman, a 6-1 guard from Medina, Ohio, and J.J. Sullinger, a 6-5 guard from Columbus, Ohio, decided to transfer into the Ohio State men’s basketball program following the 2001-02 season.
Stockman left Clemson after a two-year stint with the Tigers while Sullinger played one season at Arkansas before returning to his hometown to play for the Buckeyes. Both players must sit out the 2002-03 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.
Stockman will have two years of eligibility and Sullinger will have three. Ironically, both players wore the No. 0 at their prior respective universities (Stockman will wear No. 10 and Sullinger No. 0 at Ohio State) and won Associated Press Co-Player of the Year honors as seniors in Ohio.
Sullinger shared the honor in 2001 with current Buckeye freshman Matt Sylvester. Stockman shared the title with Chet Mason (Cleveland South/Miami, Ohio) in 2000.
Blue Devils, Buckeyes Meet in Challenge
Ohio State will participate this season in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the second time, facing the Duke Blue Devils at a neutral site in Greensboro, N.C., Dec. 3.
Ohio State and Duke have met four times with each team winning twice. The two teams have not met since Dec. 29, 1978. Duke was the No. 1-rated team at the time but fell to the Buckeyes in overtime, 90-84, as part of the ECAC Holiday Classic.
Biancardi Promoted, O’Brien’s Staff Completed
Paul Biancardi, a longtime assistant coach on Jim O’Brien’s staff at both Boston College and Ohio State, was promoted to associate head coach in August. Biancardi replaced Bruce Parkhill, who left the Buckeyes to spend more time with his family in his native State College, Pa. O’Brien also hired Monte Mathis in late summer as an assistant coach. Mathis served as an interim assistant in 2001-02 but moved back to his original video coordinator position when LaMonta Stone was hired as an OSU assistant coach following the 2001-02 season. Andy Murphy, who volunteered with the OSU program last year, also was hired as O’Brien’s video coordinator for 2002-03.
Radinovic Travels to Europe
Velimir Radinovic traveled with the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Foreign All-Star Tour Aug. 8-18. The team played five games in Germany, Belgium and Amsterdam, winning four.
Radinovic has played in 51 games with 28 starts at center for the Buckeyes. He averaged just under four points and three rebounds as a sophomore for the 24-8 Buckeyes. He averaged over 12 minutes a game while connecting on more than 55 percent of his shots from the field.
He averaged 7.2 points and 4.4 rebounds with the Big Ten squad.
Ohio State faces several tough non-league battles in preparation for the 2003 Big Ten Conference schedule. In addition to Duke, the Buckeyes will face Alabama in Springfield, Mass., in the 2002 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip Off Classic. Ohio State completes home-and-home contracts at Pittsburgh and against Louisville in Columbus. Seton Hall will travel to Columbus as well to begin a home-and-home series with the Pirates. The Harlem Globetrotters will visit Columbus this season in an exhibition contest scheduled for Nov. 22, the night before the annual football rivalry with Michigan, also in Columbus.
Buckeyes Crack Top 15 in Early Poll
Frank Burlison of FoxSports.com rates the Buckeyes No. 13 nationally in his summer NCAA men’s basketball poll. Six Ohio State opponents also were rated, led by No. 3 Pittsburgh, No. 4 Alabama and No. 9 Duke. Michigan State (15), Wisconsin (19) and Illinois (22) also cracked his Top 25. Indiana, Louisville and Minnesota were listed as “others to watch.”