Ohio State was a flawed basketball team last season.
The Buckeyes, whose season ended in the NIT for the first time after seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, struggled for multiple reasons but a main one was the team’s inability to consistently hit shots from long range. The poor three-point shooting – Ohio State’s 34 percent shooting as a team ranked 209th nationally – led to poor spacing and inconsistent offensive performances.
Thad Matta and his staff could only consistently count on one player to knock down threes. Kam Williams, the Buckeyes’ sixth man last season, shot a team-high 43.7 percent on the season and connected on 51.5 percent of his three-point attempts in Big Ten play.
Both of those numbers were far and away the best on the team. Jae’Sean Tate was second from a percentage standpoint, knocking down 35 percent of his long-range tries, but the forward attempted just 40 threes on the season compared to the 119 shot by Williams. Next were Marc Loving (33.9 percent) and Keita Bates-Diop (32.4 percent).
It appears, however, that reinforcements are on the way for the Buckeyes.
“Kam was over 50 for the Big Ten. He had a great Big Ten shooting the ball from three,” Ohio State assistant Greg Paulus said. “I think when you look at your roster and understanding, one, you want to get guys that fit who we are and what we would like to do but, two, the shooting is a skill set that a few of the guys that we have coming in can do and you can see it not only in college but at all levels, stretching the floor and creating space and having guys that understand how to play it just opens things up for the post and the drives. Having a couple guys that can hopefully shoot a high percentage this year will allow us to have a little more space and freedom for other guys as well.”
The key addition in three-point shooting comes in the form of C.J. Jackson. The JUCO transfer shot 45 percent from three at Eastern Florida State last season, knocking down 100 of the 222 threes he attempted in 32 games.
Williams has thought about what another elite shooter like Jackson can do to open up the offense.
“That would open up so many opportunities just stretching the floor and having more space to create more driving lanes and more opportunities for defenses to help,” the shooting guard said of playing alongside Jackson. “I think it’d be a great thing for us.”
A volume shooter, Jackson attempted far more threes last year than anyone on Ohio State’s roster. Loving shot 165 threes to lead the Buckeyes and he and Williams were the only two to hit at least 50 as the pair knocked down 56 and 52, respectively.
While Jackson will be the biggest addition to next year’s roster from a shooting standpoint, he isn’t the only one who will be able to help from long range. Andre Wesson, a three-star small forward from Westerville (Ohio) South, is a player Matta said has “a terrific shot.” Center Micah Potter, meanwhile, brings an ability to stretch the floor at 6-9.
The best shooter the Buckeyes have added to the team this offseason, however, is unable to take the court for Ohio State. That would be new assistant Chris Jent.
“When he demonstrates a drill it seems like he never misses,” Williams said. “I might have seen him miss two shots so far, and he shoots the same form every single time. I’m kind of nervous if he asks me to do a little shooting contest because he really does not miss at all.”