Could Ohio State lose its best player early to the NBA Draft again?
That seems unlikely, but coach Chris Holtmann told reporters Wednesday that center Kaleb Wesson has begun the process of entering his name into the draft so that he can be evaluated by league personnel.
“He’s going to go through the process while also retaining his eligibility,” Holtmann said. “I want to make that clear. He is going to go through this process and maintaining his NCAA eligibility. I fully support him in going through this process and we’re gonna walk it through with him.
“That process has begun a week ago, and we’ll see where it leads. We’ve begun to gather some information from the advisory committee for guys who are going through this process. That’s been helpful and it will continue to be as we go through it. I know Kaleb is anxious to get feedback.”
The deadline for underclassmen to enter the draft is April 21, and the draft is June 20.
Players may return to school if they pull out of the draft within 10 days after the NBA Draft Combine, which takes place in Chicago on May 14-19.
Players have been able to enter the draft without losing their eligibility for several years, but recent changes to the deadline to return to school have led to a large increase in the number who do so mostly as a fact-finding mission.
Beginning this year, players are also allowed to hire agents, though they must sever ties with representation upon deciding to return to school.
“I think the feedback is always good,” Holtmann said. “I think Kaleb is bright and his family has a good and reasonable understanding of what this process is and where he currently is. I think that’s really helpful. I don’t know what I’d put odds on, but every day we get feedback that gives us a better idea of where he currently stands and NBA organizations have to determine from here do they want to have him as part of their workouts and those kind of things.”
Wesson led Ohio State in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounding (6.9) as a sophomore last season when the Buckeyes went 20-15 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The 6-foot-9, 270-pounder added the occasional 3-pointer to his game (26 for 75, 34.7 percent) but frequently found himself in foul trouble, limiting his effectiveness at times.
The Westerville, Ohio, native also missed three games at the end of the regular season while serving a suspension for violating athletic department policy.
“Kaleb really made strides from one year to the next,” Holtmann said. “I think he made significant growth and I think for him he understands that’s gotta continue to happen, but like I said, I support him going through this process and the feedback he’s going to get and we’ll kind of see what it looks like.”
The coach said he or a member of his staff will maintain daily communication with Wesson, whose brother Andre is due to be a senior for the Buckeyes next season.
“The interesting dynamic right now is that with this rule change, you can hire an agent now,” Holtmann said. "You have to fire the agent, basically, so there are very specific timelines that have to happen and we put our compliance as well as a staff member in charge of making sure he is on to of that because it’s a lot fo him and a lot for his family so we’re working closely.”
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Even with the expectation Wesson will be in an Ohio State uniform next season, Holtmann confirmed the team is interested in adding a backup center via transfer for next season, when the Buckeyes add four-star forwards Alonzo Gaffney of Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., and EJ Liddell of Belleville (Ill.) West and guard DJ Carton of Bettendorf, Iowa.
A year ago, Ohio State’s returning scorer also entered the draft with eligibility remaining, but Keita Bates-Diop announced at the time he would be hiring an agent to would not be returning to school.
Bates-Diop ultimately was drafted in the second round and ended up with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Splitting time between the NBA and the G League, Bates-Diop averaged 5.1 points and 2.6 rebounds in 29 games for the T-Wolves.