Bouncing Back From An 'Awful' Season

Jon Diebler will be the first to admit that his freshman season was not what he expected. After a strong offseason, Ohio's all-time leading prep scorer has become a key cog in Ohio State's rotation. Take a look at Diebler's turnaround as the Buckeyes prepare for Siena in the NCAA Tournament.

When the going gets tough, Thad Matta turns to one of his sophomores to stay in the game and get the job done.

No, it's not Evan Turner.

After ending the regular season tied with Turner for the team lead in minutes played, Jon Diebler has now passed the first-team all-Big Ten player for playing time after seeing 10 more minutes of action than Turner during Ohio State's three-game run through the Big Ten tournament. Although Turner found himself saddled with foul trouble against Wisconsin and subsequently limited to 34 minutes of action, the OSU coaches were more concerned with getting him breaks during the final two games than they were about Diebler.

While playing three games in three days, Diebler sat out a grand total of two minutes and played all 40 minutes in the final two games. It was a testament to how far Ohio's all-time leading prep scorer has come in the course of a season.

Thrust into a greater role last season than he was perhaps ready for, the native of Upper Sandusky struggled all season long to achieve consistency.

It was so bad that while rattling off a list of players who had performed well for the Buckeyes in their upset of top-ranked Michigan State in the conference tournament, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo struggled to remember Diebler's name.

"And the other kid has been shooting pretty well for a lot of this year, where last year he shot awful – Diebler," he said.

When the comment got back to Diebler, he blushed a little and laughed as he thought back to his freshman season.

"It was really tough, just because there was a lot of pressure from what I did in high school, averaging all those points," he said. "I think a lot of people thought I was going to come in and average 30 points a game, but college is a whole other level."

After starting his freshman year 2 for 24 (8.3 percent) from three-point range and 4 of 35 (11.4 percent) overall in his first five games, Diebler would go on to finish the year at 28.9 percent (48 for 166) from deep and 30.4 percent (63 for 207) overall.

Diebler said the speed of the game was something that took time to become comfortable with, and it clearly was not an overnight adjustment. After pouring in 3,208 points in his prep career, Diebler was the subject of plenty of expectations from the Buckeye faithful.

When he did not immediately live up to them, it was tough.

"I'm surprised he didn't transfer," Turner said. "I thought it was really tough for him. A lot of people had a lot of expectations for him and wanted to see a lot from him. It had to be tough, but he just kept his head into it and really took advantage of the offseason."

Turner said he had heard rumors that Diebler might have been considering a transfer out of the program following his freshman year because of the pressures placed on him out of high school.

"Jon didn't seem like the type of guy to do that," he said. "I just thought the only thing was with him being a golden boy in the state coming out of high school, that has to be tough. When you do good, people love you, but when you do that badly it can break you down mentally."

Thanks to his work in the offseason, OSU head coach Thad Matta said Diebler has exceeded the expectations the coaching staff had for him this year. In conference play, his .455 three-point shooting percentage (60 for 132) tied him for tops in the league with Indiana's Devin Dumes (35 for 77) and his number of made three-pointers was second-best.

For the entire season, Diebler hit on 42.7 percent of his three-pointers (94 for 220). That is good for second-most in single-season school history and 10 behind Jamar Butler's total from last season. In two years, his 142 career three-pointers already puts him seventh on OSU's all-time list and two away from a tie for sixth place.

Assuming he plays four years in Columbus, Diebler is in line to become the school's most prolific three-point shooter.

"I always knew he could shoot even though his shots didn't go in for some reason last year," Turner said. "He worked on his shot every single day. It just didn't go in."

His importance to the team stretches past his ability to knock down a jumper, however. On a team that relies almost exclusively on freshmen and sophomores to carry the mail, he has been tasked with helping out in a number of other areas.

Turner was a unanimous first-team all-conference selection while Diebler earned honorable mention honors. While the former has brought home most of the headlines, it has been Diebler who has received second-billing everywhere but on the court.

"Jon has a tremendous feel for what's going on at all times," Matta said. "He's got a heck of a motor in him. He can just keep going. That's a comforting thing of being able to keep him out there on the floor for as long as we do."

As for comments like Izzo's, Diebler knows they were not far from the mark.

"It's just motivation, I guess," he said. "I didn't have that good of a year."


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