O'Brien Believes Pieces Are In Place

OSU coach wary after injury plagued season. But with Terence Dials and others coming back strong, turnaround could be just around the corner.

When OSU men's basketball coach Jim O'Brien stopped by Jim Tressel's luncheon last Tuesday, most of the topic of discussion involved the ongoing Maurice Clarett controversy.

But reporters also got O'Brien to talk on the record a little bit about his basketball team.

O'Brien said everything looks to be positive as the players gear up for the start of fall quarter next Wednesday and the start of practice in mid-October.

OSU will return three players who started at least half of last season in center Velimir Radinovic and forwards Matt Sylvester and Shun Jenkins. Plus, the Buckeyes welcome in four new faces in transfers J.J. Sullinger and Tony Stockman, Prop 48 Ricardo Billings and incoming freshman Ivan Harris. And, O'Brien said everything seems to be going well for two players -- forward Terence Dials (back) and point guard Brandon Fuss-Cheatham (knee) -- who missed a great deal of time a year ago due to injuries.

"Right now, it's all good for us," O‘Brien said. "Everybody is healthy and we had a good year academically. The guys we had some concern about are fine. Ricardo Billings is now ready to go (academically). Terence (Dials) is healthy. He has lost 25 pounds. I think he looks great and his back is feeling fine. Plus, J.J. (Sullinger) and Tony (Stockman) are just kind of ancy right now.

"Those four guys, in particular, you can't talk enough about how they want to get this thing going. They want to get going right now, as we all do. Velimir (Radinovic) just came back from being with the Canadian Junior National team. We are really happy with where everything is right now, and we're just anxious."

The one wild card may be Fuss-Cheatham, who spent much of the summer in his Pennsylvania hometown as he continues to rehab his balky knee.

"Brandon, I just talked to him yesterday," O‘Brien said. "He spent the whole summer in Beaver Falls (Pa.) with his family and his coach. He's just working on his game individually, getting in shape, doing a lot of shooting and just doing a lot of individual stuff. He didn't play in any kind of competitive environment. He was just getting his knee better, getting his body ready and working on his game, which I think is important.

"Brandon factors into our plans heavily. If he gets a little bit more confidence and shoots the ball a little bit better, he has the potential to be a very good player."

Sullinger and Sylvester each put up big numbers in the Worthington summer league, a good sign, O'Brien said.

"A couple of guys, I heard, played very well," he said. "It's one of those things I don't agree with, but we can't watch our own guys."

O'Brien believes his next team will improve on last year's 17-15 mark. But, after enduring a rough injury plagued season, he is gun shy about predicting an immediate turnaround.

"You think about who we have in our program," O‘Brien said. "We have Velimir, who really is the only guy we have with any experience playing in the NCAA Tournament. Tony hasn't, J.J. hasn't and Ricardo hasn't. Terence was hurt and we have some younger guys. I think we have a chance to have a nice team. But until guys actually go out and get it done, who knows how it's going to play out. But I am very optimistic."

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