Dials Ready To Lead Buckeyes

Junior center Terence Dials is without question one of the most important pieces to the puzzle for this year's Buckeye basketball team. Dials talked today about the upcoming season, how things are going under Thad Matta, and why he's not looking forward to seeing the coach's bad side. Dave Biddle has the report.

If Ohio State is going to have a good season under first year head coach, junior center Terence Dials will need to be a big factor. And no one knows that better than Dials himself.

"As a captain, I want to lead this team as best as possible," he said. "You know, lead by example. And hopefully I'll get some All-Big Ten accolades. The better I become, the better this team will become. I think the better I do, the team will do well."

Dials was second on the team in scoring last year at 10.4 points per game. He led the 14-16 Buckeyes in rebounding at 6.6 per game.

Matta has been impressed with what he's seen from Dials. He wants to see him continue to work on his conditioning, but so far, so good.

"I think with Terence, No.1 he's healthy," Matta said. "Number two, he's really done a nice job. I've been pleased with what I've seen. I haven't seen him go up and down and that sort of thing, but I think for the most part he's worked hard, he's had a great summer, he's gotten himself in pretty good shape. We still need him in a little better shape - his definition of shape and mine are a little different - but we'll get him where we need him. Hopefully he'll be able to produce down low for us."

Although Dials said he's still a team captain, Matta stopped short of confirming it.

"You know, I haven't even thought about that, to be honest," Matta said. "I usually kind of watch and see where we go from there. I haven't even thought about that yet."

There are no player votes when it comes time to pick captains. It's Matta's call.

"Yeah, I pick them," he said. "Honestly, I'd like all 14 of them to be team captains and take that much ownership in the program. But Terence cares so much, he's so well spoken; I mean he's just a tremendous kid and I'd say that he would be deserving of that."

Dials is still feeling out his new coach. He thinks he knows him pretty well, but you never see the true side of a coach until practice begins.

"You don't really know until you get on the floor and actually get his coaching," Dials said. "You know, offseason they're not really allowed to do much with you, but individuals, so I know he's a very hands-on type of coach. He's very energetic.

"He's just really eager to coach. I don't know if it's because he hasn't coached us yet, or it's because he's like that every offseason. But I can tell you right now he's ready to get in the gym. Every time I talk to him he can't wait. He'll ask me, 'Are you ready for practices to start? Are you ready for practices to start?' And I'm just like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah.' He's just a very energetic guy and I think it will rub off on us."

Matta is being nice to the players right now, but that will soon change.

"Yeah, he's trying to ease us in there, I think," Dials said with a laugh. "But I think once practice starts, I think we'll start to see the other side of Coach Matta, which is good for us. It's something we need."

Former OSU coach Jim O'Brien was known to crack a joke from time to time, but the players have not seen Matta's comedic side just yet.

"He's hasn't been joking too much," Dials said. "I think he knows the type of year we had. He wants to be about business first before he starts getting into jokes."

Matta hasn't joked, and he also hasn't yelled at anyone yet.

"No, he hasn't and that's the part I'm worried about," Dials said. "He's showed all his good side, but I'm ready to see the bad side. I think that will come up in practice. I think he'll unleash the bad part, which is good for us. That's what coaches do. They have two parts and I think the bad part will come out in practice this weekend."

Dials thinks the players have become a tight-knit group. He says they all hang out together quite a bit.

"There definitely is a chemistry with this team," he said. "We've had a lot of open gyms over the summer and this fall and guys are starting to play well with each other. I think we're starting to become a cohesive unit, which is what we need."
Dials is ready to get going. He's been counting down the days until practices begin.

"Yeah, when you lose like we did last year it leaves a bad taste in your mouth," he said. "We've just been excited to get back on the court and get ready for practice Oct. 16."

There is no time for a rebuilding year from Dials' point of view. He thinks the Buckeyes can be very good this year.

"That's pretty much the same goal that we have every year: win the Big Ten, make it to the NCAA Tournament," Dials said. "Coach Matta is trying to put his stamp on this program and I think he'll do that with one of those goals, or both, accomplished this year."

Dials was a key contributor on OSU's Big Ten championship team in 2001-02 as a freshman. He then sat out most of the 02-03 year with a back injury and was granted a medical redshirt. Last year, he was a starter and one of the top players in the conference. He's seen a lot during his time in Columbus and admits that he feels like an old veteran at this point.

"I do feel like one," Dials said. "I've been on a winning team that won the Big Ten and went to the tournament, and then I've been on a couple losing teams (the Buckeyes were actually 17-15 in 2002-03). So, hopefully we'll revert back to when I first got here and become a winning team. It's been a long ride, but it's been fun. It's been real fun."

Freshmen and first-year Buckeyes were not available for comment at media day, but Dials gave us a rundown on the newcomers.

"Oh, they are all great," he said. "Jamar (Butler), Je'Kel (Foster), the new guy transfer, and even Jermyl (Jackson-Wilson) and Matt Terwillger, they've all came in and impressed me. I remember coming in as a freshman, I don't remember being that good. I think they're doing real good."

All four are expected to contribute this season.

"I definitely see them making an immediate impact," Dials said. "I don't want to point out too many guys, but I think Je'Kel brings the outside shooting threat that we definitely need. He can drive to the basket, or he can shoot, so he'll keep defenses honest. And Jamar, I mean, he came in as billed. You know, Mr. Basketball of Ohio. He's a great point guard - he can pass the ball and he looks to pass first, which is good."

Ohio State is a bit thin up front other than Dials. Ivan Harris is expected to start at power forward and that leaves Matt Marinchick, Jackson-Wilson and Terwillger to back up the four and five spots. Dials was asked if Jackson-Wilson and Terwillger are ready to play in the post in the physical Big Ten.

"Yeah, they have the skill to do that," he said. "It's going to be a different type of player when they're in the game - I'm a little bit stronger - but they can give you something just like I can."

When O'Brien was fired last spring, there was a dark cloud over the program. Dials didn't try and sugarcoat the feeling of the players at that difficult time.

"It was real gloomy around here, I'd have to say," he said. "When Coach O'Brien got fired, it broke a lot of guys' hearts on the team, as well as the support staff and everybody around Columbus. It was real shocking.

"But I think as time went on and Coach Matta got hired, I think it kind of rejuvenated the program a little bit and it gave us a sense of urgency to get started."

Dials enjoyed playing for O'Brien, but recognizes that Matta's hiring was a positive move for the program.

"It's definitely exciting," he said. "Sometimes change can be bad, or it can be good. In this case, I think it's real good. I think Coach Matta has brought that excitement. He's making players work, which is good, and we're willing to work since we haven't had a winning season in two years. Coach Matta is bringing in his winning tradition and I think that will be good for this program."

All the players are now on equal footing in the eyes of the coach.

"Yeah, I think we're all starting off on clean slates," Dials said. "A couple guys last year didn't play the way we wanted to play and I think with a new coach and a new coaching staff, we have a clean slate and we can start off fresh. Hopefully we can prove to the fans of Ohio State that we're a much better team than what we showed last year."
Dials was asked to pinpoint what went wrong last season.

"You know, I'm not really sure," he said. "That's been part of our problem: we can't put our finger on why we weren't as good as we should have been last year. I can tell you one thing: defense was part of the problem and this year Coach Matta is preaching defense. I think he said the first two weeks of practice would be mostly defense and that kind of let us know that he's a defensive coach first."

Dials has not had a chance to look ahead at the non-conference schedule.

"I haven't really," he said. "Our mind has basically been on the first exhibition game. (Matta) wants to take one game at a time and he's preached that. One day at a time. I think if we get better each day, we'll become a great team towards the end of the season and I think that's the goal."

Dials put in a lot of long hours during the offseason. He somehow looks trim at 6-foot-9, 250 pounds.

"I worked on my all around game, especially facing up to the basket," he said. "That was part of my deficiency last year running the power forward spot and I just wanted to fix that. Coach Matta, he likes his big guys to be able to step out and shoot and that's what I've been working on diligently. It's coming around. I think I'll be able to show what I can do this year. I've worked hard in the weight room and I'm just looking to put it all together this year."


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