Injuries Taking Shine Off Matta's Summer

If Thad Matta shakes his head every time another injury pops up for his OSU men's basketball team, he'd make a pretty good bobblehead. Not even the summer is a respite for injuries given recent news, but Matta did have some positive things to say about the recovery of David Lighty while also updating various players and aspects of his program Wednesday.

For many, the big questions around the Ohio State basketball team include how Buckeyes plan to replace Evan Turner and how a talented group of highly ranked freshmen will mesh with the squad.

For head coach Thad Matta, the one on his mind right now centers on when his team will be healthy.

This has been an offseason of maladies for the Buckeyes, from David Lighty's foot injury to more serious pains involving Nikola Kecman and Lenzelle Smith. Unfortunately for Matta, going into his seventh season at OSU, the bumps and bruises are nothing new.

"I could do it right off the top of my head – if I went through all of the injuries that we've endured over the six years that we've been here, I would guarantee there's some you guys have already forgotten about," he said.

Many might remember the wrist issue that kept Greg Oden out for part of his first and only season and last year's back injury that sidelined the nation's top player, Evan Turner. Then there are smaller but no less important things that have popped up, like the appendectomy that took Matt Terwilliger away from the team come tournament time in 2006.

"From my standpoint, you almost become numb to it," Matta admitted. "You can never prepare for injuries."

The good news for the head man is that perhaps the most significant one facing this year's team is improving nicely. Rehabbing from a broken foot, Lighty has shed crutches and is now in a walking boot, and even that could be gone in the near future. The fifth-year senior also has shed nearly 10 pounds from the weight of 225 at which he played last season.

"David looks great," Matta said. "He's doing everything except the running. He's dropped some weight. He looks good. I asked him about dropping eight pounds because he was up to 225, but Dave is a guy that I've never seen somebody eat more food than he does. But he's also the most hyper kid I've ever coached, so it counterbalances itself."

The updates on Smith and Kecman are more in the longer term. Smith's wrist injury – which Matta said was basically the same one Oden suffered before his OSU debut – will be reevaluated in August, while Kecman's repaired ACL could keep him out for the year. The Serb was set to undergo a procedure on his meniscus when the damage to the ACL was discovered, Matta said.

With injuries out of the way, Matta was able to discuss plans and players for the upcoming season:

Though Jordan Sibert, a four-star shooting guard from Cincinnati Princeton, struggled in some ways during his senior year after suffering a broken leg, Matta still thinks he can contribute in 2010: "The thing I told Jordan is whatever you do this summer, just make sure you can make open jump shots. I think with his athleticism, I think that's back, and he looks different than when he got here a month ago from what he's done in the weight room."

Another freshman whose 2010 prospects have been debated is three-star wing J.D. Weatherspoon of Columbus Northland, but Matta said he has no plans – yet – to talk about redshirting with the raw but athletic prospect: "For J.D., I think his thing, if position-wise I view him as a wing, I want him to be able to shoot the ball a little better. I know he can get it and rebound it, but I also think he needs to become a guy that can guard two, three, four positions on the floor, a lot like David Lighty does."

Center Zisis Sarikopoulous had a tough 2009-10, playing an average of 6.0 points per game in 14 contests. But the struggles began before the year when he picked up an injury while representing his native country of Greece in international play. This year, Sarikopoulous is playing again and is healthy as he competes at the European Under-20 championships: "That experience (last year) didn't work out the way we had planned it was going to. Those guys, they get to practice, they get to play games, so I'm hoping that he comes back in pretty good shape and a better player. Hopefully this year with just another year under his belt, he's going to be able to help us more than we went with last year."

Some have wondered whether Ohio State would continue to use gear bearing the personal logo of OSU fan LeBron James, but director of basketball operations David Egelhoff was in the room and noted that the Buckeyes' jerseys have not carried the LBJ23 symbol the past two seasons. As for James, Matta said, "In my opinion, LeBron still loves Ohio, still loves Ohio State, so I hope that he remains a huge fan of ours because I'm a huge fan of his, that's for sure. In my position, it's who he is as a basketball player, not who he's playing for. Obviously I view LeBron as one of the all-time greats. I do wish he had stayed in Cleveland, but somebody asked me about it and I said ‘Look, I don't have a leg to stand on. I've changed jobs three times.' "

Matta noted that the Buckeyes will host the elusive in-state foe, Miami (Ohio) the night of Nov. 26, the Friday night before the football game vs. Michigan.


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