Ohio State basketball: Justin Ahrens looking forward to sophomore season

Justin Ahrens intends to be back bigger and stronger as a sophomore for Ohio State men’s basketball team.

The Versailles native is not quite full-go as the Buckeyes begin practice for the 2019-20 season, but he said he feels good after a back injury interrupted his summer.

"Yeah, I felt like that was about the best basketball I've been playing in all of my life,” he said Tuesday at the team’s picture day. “I was playing at a good weight. When I got injured I think I lost four pounds, but since I've been back I've gained like 15, somewhere in there.”

Now at 193, Ahrens said ultimately he would like to gain another 10-12 pounds to reach his ideal playing weight.

“That's where I feel most comfortable, so at the strongest that I can be,” he said.

The 6-foot-5 wing averaged 3.2 points and 1.8 rebounds in 9.6 minutes per game as a freshman for the Buckeyes. He appeared in 25 games, including four starts, and found himself moving to power forward at times to help make up for a lack of depth in the Ohio State frontcourt.

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“Obviously I learned a lot from last year, my freshman year,” he said. “Whether I was on the court or not, I just saw a lot of things like how it was played at the college level. Working hard, buying into our team system on defense and offense. Knowing where I need to be on the floor. I feel like in all those aspects of the game, I'm just gonna improve going into my sophomore year just from seeing how I've been playing. Obviously I've been in the gym this summer, been working, trying to stack good days on top of good days."

While moonlight at the “4” provided valuable experience, the addition of four-star freshmen Alonzo Gaffney and E.J. Liddell has fortified the Buckeyes there, so Ahrens is looking forward to being able to remain on the perimeter this season as the Buckeyes take aim at a third straight NCAA tournament bid.

"Really it doesn't matter to me,” he said of what his role might be this season. "Whatever way I can help the team win. I feel like I'm really a position-less player. When I work out, I work on pretty much all aspects of my game. Obviously shooting more than anything, but I've been working on a lot of ball handling, seeing the floor better, making sure there is a reason before throwing a pass and things like that."

He made 19 of 49 from 3-point range last season (38.8 percent) and figures to again be one of the team’s best true shooters even with the addition of a top-15 recruiting class and CJ Walker, a point guard who transferred from Florida State and is eligible to play in games after sitting out last year.

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Ahrens, the two-time Ohio Co-Player of the Year in Division III during his time with the Tigers, said he hopes to help the newcomers adapt to the college game as quickly and smoothly as they can.

“You gotta learn as you go and you got to pick up on things kind of fast,” he said. “So with me learning from my mistakes last year, I feel like I'm gonna be right there for 'em. So when they make the same mistakes that I made or different mistakes, hopefully I'll be able to help them and address it so they can just move on from it right away. I think they're guys that'll pick up a stuff like that pretty fast."

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