Coach John Groce did not have an easy time adjusting to life as a head coach. His veteran Ohio team won just 15 games and struggled to a 7-9 record in the brutal MAC East. Suddenly what Coach Groce has to work with is not an experienced team and the struggles will continue...for now, but this is a great recruiting class and if that continues, the Bobcats will not spend much more time towards the bottom of the conference.
Key Losses for OU: G Michael Allen, F Justin Orr, F Jerome Tillman
The players on the wings often went unappreciated due to the now departed talent in the frontcourt. However, Steven Coleman and Tommy Freeman are ready to take this team over. Coleman is a decent outside shooter, but he does most of his scoring damage around the basket. Coleman, just a sophomore, will even help out on the glass and find his teammates with his passing skills. Freeman, a 6-5 small forward, is more of a pure shooter than Coleman. Last year he knocked down 42.5 percent of his attempts from long range. Asown Sayles is back from injury and he will provide some depth at the small forward spot.
The frontcourt will have to live without Jerome Tillman and Justin Orr, who were the only two players to average double figures in the scoring column. However, there are a couple decent post options in DeVaughn Washington and Kenneth van Kempen. Washington started 15 games last year, but he will be pushed by Baltic for the starting power forward job. Washington is a decent scorer around the basket and could turn into the team’s most productive rebounder. At 6-10 and 249 pounds, van Kempen has more size and will likely start under the basket. He is not a prolific scorer or that great of a rebounder, but he is a defensive presence in the paint. In many cases, when van Kempen needs a break, Washington will fill the void under the basket.
Who’s In for Ohio:
Ivo Baltic was a steal for Ohio. The 6-8 freshman was a McDonald’s All-America nominee who can play either forward position. He has some shooting range, but also has the strength to mix it up in the paint and hit the glass hard. Power forward Reggie Keely and small forward Marquis Horne will provide more depth. Horne is a do-it-all 6-6, 224 pounder, who should work his way into the regular rotation as a freshman. D.J. Cooper and Jay Kinney will be the point guards of the future. Cooper is the more highly touted recruit and the Bobcats expect him to provide quality minutes off the bench right away.
The Bobcats have all the pieces to be a surprise team in the Mid-American Conference and the one piece left is at point guard. And that is where Indiana transfer Armon Bassett comes into play. Bassett earned All-Big Ten honors two years ago and proved to be an excellent outside shooter and a capable ball handler. It is Bassett who can turn this team into something special if he is ready to take over the team on both ends of the floor.
Final 2009-2010 Ohio Projection:
The MAC East is tough. Ohio’s 7-9 conference mark would have tied them for first in the MAC West last year, but instead they were last in the East. The extreme difference between the two conferences might not be quite as large as it was last year, but the strength is still in the East and Ohio will have a tough time surpassing teams like Akron, Buffalo and Kent State. But with just one senior on the roster, the 2010-2011 campaign should be much better.