Ohio State basketball coach Chris Holtmann is heading into year two with the Buckeyes.
Here’s what he had to say at the annual Big Ten Basketball Media Day in Rosemont, Ill.
The Buckeyes kick off the season Nov. 7 at Cincinnati.
THE MODERATOR: Joining us at the podium is Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann. Chris enters his second season with the Buckeyes after advancing to the NCAA Tournament in his first season in Columbus. His fourth consecutive season leading a program to the NCAA tournament.
Coach, if you’d like to begin with an opening statement, we’ll open the floor for questions.
CHRIS HOLTMANN: Sure, thank you.
Excited to be here. It’s a fun time of year. A lot of anticipation. We are super excited about being here. Thank you all for coming and covering this event.
I really do feel like our league is poised for a very good year. I think when you look at the returning players, and when you look at the recruiting classes, the quality of coaching, I think our league is deep and poised for a really good year.
As far as we’re concerned, I think we’ve got some questions that need to be answered. We’re in the process of trying to do that. We have a relatively new team with six new players. We’re excited about working with this group. We understand we do have some questions that we have to answer as a group here.
Like I said, we’re in the midst of trying to do that. Excited about it. We want to get everybody healthy first. We’ve only had one full day of practice with every guy due to some bangs and bruises. But excited about moving forward.
We have a very, very challenging schedule ahead of us. Particularly early with some true road games that I think are really exciting for our fans, but can be challenging for a new group.
I’ll open it up for questions.
Q. As you look at this year, is maybe the most on-the-radar year you’ve had as a coach given the success you had last year, attention people are going to be paying to you now?
CHRIS HOLTMANN: On the radar meaning?
Q. From an outside perspective, is the most you feel people are watching you, what job you’re going to be doing this year?
CHRIS HOLTMANN: I think the nature of our business is you’re being evaluated on pretty much a game-to-game basis. I don’t know that the scrutiny is any greater now than what it has been in the past. I think people are curious about how we’re going to transition from four really good seniors, important players, in particular Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate.
I do think people are curious about that, curious about how to implement six new players. So I’m anxious to see, as our fans are, how we’re going to manage that.
Q. Speak on your freshmen Luther Muhammad, what you like about him, what you think some of his challenges might be breaking into the rotation?
CHRIS HOLTMANN: Absolutely. Luther Muhammad has been a really important recruit for us, given our lack of guard depth. We have loved coaching him. He has a tremendous work ethic, capacity for work. He is really competitive. I think he has the ability to impact the game on both ends. He’s been really well-coached in high school. Comes from a terrific program.
He’s going to play an important role really from day one for us. We’re excited about his development. I think some of his challenges will be like any freshman: understanding some of the things you can and cannot do at this level.
Q. You mentioned some of the recruiting class. You guys get to see all these guys in recruiting. Who are three, four, five guys around the league who you think
fans really should pay attention to early on?
CHRIS HOLTMANN: Freshmen that are ready to make an impact?
CHRIS HOLTMANN: Obviously I think Romeo Langford is one of the very first ones that comes to mind. Many people are aware of his talent, his ability, certainly what he’s going to mean for Indiana. I think he is a part of a very gifted and talented Indiana team.
I think the young man from Michigan has a chance to have a real impact. I didn’t see him a whole lot, but I think he’s got a chance to have a real impact from day one from what I understand. I think there are many others. I know Minnesota has a terrific, versatile big that they’ve added to their roster that we’re excited about. I’m sure will have a tremendous Big Ten career.
Q. Coming off a great season, what plans have you done as a coach as well as a team to get you prepared for this season?
CHRIS HOLTMANN: Well, we tried to put last year as quickly as possible in the rearview mirror. I think you get asked about last year’s team because it was a fun team for people to watch and observe. But we tried to quickly turn the page as much as possible.
I think our guys understand that many of the major components of last year’s team are gone. That’s exciting for them in new roles. But we tried to quickly turn the page and focus on the development and the growth of this team on a day-to-day basis. That’s probably been the most important thing we’ve tried to do.
Q. Obviously this year the Big Ten tournament moves back to its traditional week. How is that going to help with that extra week?
CHRIS HOLTMANN: I think the rest will help. Lord knows, I can use all the help possible when it comes to Big Ten tournament, conference tournaments for that matter. But I do like the week of rest. I do think the schedule, as it is now, sets up better for a more quality tournament, and hopefully for post-season play.
I don’t know that it limited any of us last year, the added rest going into the NCAA Tournament. But I certainly like this setup better.
Q. Keyshawn Woods coming from Wake Forest probably counting on him to play some pretty good minutes for you. What is your thought after two weeks working every day on this, what you’re seeing and getting with him?
CHRIS HOLTMANN: He’s been good. He’s been good for us. He’s a solid player right now, has a terrific feel for the game, which means he’s going to play a significant amount of point guard for us, as well as off the ball, really all three perimeter spots.
He’s been really solid for us. Kind of what we’ve expected. I think he’s waiting a little bit to assert a level of leadership. I think he wants his teammates to observe how he works on a day-to-day basis. But as you mentioned, he is critical for this group.