The Struggles Of Jon Diebler

After establishing himself as the state's most prolific scorer ever, Ohio State fans could not wait to see Jon Diebler start burning up the nets as a Buckeye. Things have not gone according to plan thus far, however, and now the Upper Sandusky, Ohio, native is working to regain the form that made him an elite prospect.

Believe it or not, Jon Diebler has struggled before. Ohio's all-time leading scorer is best known for pulling up and scoring from almost anywhere on the court, but even he had off nights in high school.

Aside from his own coach and father, Keith Diebler, one other coach has seen firsthand what last year's Mr. Basketball can do both when he is on and when he is struggling.

As a senior, Diebler averaged 40.8 points per game. He was held to less than 30 points in a game just four times – twice during the regular season and twice during the state playoffs. His season-low was 23 points.

However, in a game against Tiffin (Ohio) Columbian on Feb. 16, 2007, Diebler was held to 28 points on 9 of 20 shooting in his team's 100-73 victory. Then-Columbian coach Derick Lewis said the team's plan was to make someone besides Diebler defeat them.

"When you play a team like that with a kid like that, you throw your conventional defenses out the door," he told BuckeyeSports.com. "He was still the main factor on the court that night. We were just lucky that he didn't have some shots fall that usually go in that night."

It was a rare night of prep struggles for Diebler that could not have forecasted the problems the 6-6, 200-pounder has gone through already in his OSU career. Although he emerged from fall camp as one of two freshmen to earn spots in the team's starting lineup, Diebler has fallen short of expectations early on.

Through five games, the sharpshooter who shot 34.7 percent from beyond the arc (112 of 323) as a senior is a paltry 2 of 24 (8.3 percent) from deep and just 4 of 35 (11.4 percent) overall.

His struggles have not been for a lack of effort, however. Diebler has been putting in extra time outside of the team's practice schedule, and his teammates and head coach Thad Matta have been quick to praise his abilities.

Matta said it would be time to be concerned about his starting shooting guard if not for one little fact.

"I really believe with Jon if he wasn't making them in practice, if he wasn't – I'm out there watching him do skill instruction before this – if he wasn't making them, I'd be really concerned," he said.

The head coach has also likened Diebler's struggles to those senior captain Jamar Butler went through during his freshman season, when the Lima, Ohio, native started just 4 of 27 from beyond the arc. In OSU's last game against VMI on Nov. 25, Butler was 4 of 8 from beyond the arc and became the Buckeyes' all-time leader in three pointers.

Diebler, in contrast, was 0 of 4 from long range and just 1 of 8 from the field overall.

"I think it was more of a mental thing (for me early), and that's what I'm hoping it is for Jon," Butler said. "I think it is. Once you come out and miss so many in a row you start thinking about, "I have to make this one, I have to make the next one.' It really starts to mess with your mind a little bit, but I think Jon will be fine."

From a fundamental standpoint, there appears to be little wrong with his shot. Matta said the coaches have been working on him to make sure he lands where he jumps from without fading away, likening it to having a gymnast sticking his or her landing after performing a routine.

Diebler said his father has pictures that show Jon is fading away on his shot, but both he and Matta said that has nothing to do with having bigger defenders getting to him quicker than in high school.

"I know I'm fading away and that's why I'm missing and coming up short sometimes," Diebler said. "I think just staying in my shot and keeping my elbow up, that'll help a lot. Now I think I get a little caught up in the game and I play too fast sometimes. I just have to relax and slow down a little bit."

In addition to all the attention being paid to his struggles, Diebler – who admitted to sometimes being a streaky shooter in high school – has begun wearing a brace on his right (shooting) wrist.

"I hurt my wrist a couple of weeks ago," he said. "I had to get an MRI and they think I might have a cyst or something. It doesn't really bother me much in games."

It seems, then, that the only solution that will help Diebler get past his shooting struggles is just to keep shooting. The 3,208 points he scored in high school were no fluke, and his teammates are confident he will regain that form.

The same goes for those who coached against him in high school. In addition to the aforementioned 28-point game, Columbian also dropped a 105-100 decision to Upper Sandusky during which Diebler poured in 77 points.

"I always had coaches ask me last year, ‘Can Jon make it at Ohio State?' I said, ‘Well, if he can't, who can?' " Lewis said. "He scores all these points, the kid's the hardest worker I've ever coached against and I think he's surpassed what a lot of people thought already by breaking into the starting lineup. There's no doubt in my mind that he'll turn it around."


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