COLUMBUS, Ohio — The exact details about replacing all the statistical production Ohio State lost can really afford to wait.
But filling the leadership void? That was an immediate priority for the Buckeyes once all those veterans walked out the door and a critical offseason for Chris Holtmann’s second year in charge opened.
Week after week, it’s becoming increasingly clear throughout offseason workouts that Ohio State has already found somebody new to set the tone, and C.J. Jackson is putting his stamp on the program.
“You can already see it,” sophomore Musa Jallow said. “He’s already improved so much since last year, whether it’s being more confident or trying to get out of his comfort zone to try to take the leadership role. But he’s definitely improved a lot since last season.
“I mean, he’s the point guard. Obviously the point guard is usually going to be the head of the team, and for the guys who were here last year, they got to see him handle the ball and deal with the tougher situations. I feel like he handled them pretty well, and maybe even excelled in some other areas. I have full faith in him personally in being our point guard and being our leader.”
Those jobs don’t always have to go hand in hand, but it certainly shouldn’t hurt the Buckeyes to have a floor general who commands as much respect as Jackson.
Heading into his senior season, Ohio State is going to be asking a lot of the veteran when it comes to taking on some of the scoring of Keita Bates-Diop or maybe adding a couple more rebounds from the guard spot now that Jae’Sean Tate isn’t around to do the dirty work. Of course, Jackson is already putting in the work to help in those areas this summer — but it’s taking the leadership torch that came with even more urgency for the Buckeyes.
“A lot of guys are gone, and this year we’ll have a completely new team, a lot of new guys who kind of don’t know what it means to be in this program,” Jackson said. “It’s not just myself, it’s a couple other guys who have been here, we just have to be a little bit more to lead. We don’t have to do it individually. We can do it collectively, so that’s the biggest thing so far.
“I don’t think it has to be just one person. Everyone can learn, everyone can get better from each other.”
A collaborative effort would certainly be beneficial, and even last year Ohio State didn’t rely on just one veteran to speak up or set the pace in terms of work ethic.
This group is also leaning on veterans like Joey Lane, Andre Wesson and Micah Potter to set the foundation for another run to the NCAA Tournament. And all will have valuable roles to play as part of the process.
But at least right now, it feels like all eyes are on the point guard.
“It’s probably just the respect that we have for him,” Wesson said. “He’s a great player on the court, but he’s also just a great guy off the court, too. He’s one of my best friends on this team, and we just respect him so much. That’s probably the biggest thing.”
It’s possible Jackson might not be getting enough credit for what he can bring to the Ohio State backcourt, and he’s more than capable of becoming a go-to weapon this season to fill the stats sheet.
But that conversation can wait, because the first order of business can’t be quantified.
“The people who are returning, we know what it takes,” Jackson said. “But we know what it takes to lose as well, and we’re not trying to go back down that path. We’re trying to take the path that we took last summer.”
Jackson is right at the front of the line, guiding the Buckeyes back where they want to go.