Buckeyes Hold Media Day; Look Ahead To 2014-15 Season
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Year two for head coach Kevin McGuff has officially began as Ohio State held media day Thursday afternoon at the Schottenstein Center. Coach McGuff and the players met with the media to preview the upcoming season.
New faces abound for the Buckeyes as more than half the roster will be making their Scarlet and Grey debuts this season. One of the returners however, is junior guard Ameryst Alston. Alston averaged 19.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game last year en route to being named first team All-Big Ten. She is back to lead a backcourt that is full of talent.
Fellow junior Cait Craft started every game last season and averaged better than eight points per contest. She made a team-high tying 43 three-pointers on the year, including seven in the Big Ten Tournament.
In the front court, redshirt-sophomores Kalpana Beach and Lisa Blair will anchor a young group. Beach has missed the last two seasons with knee injuries but looks healthy as the team heads into practice. Blair is an athletic 6-6 post that played in 25 games last year as a freshman.
The rest of the group is new. Transfers Kianna Holland and Shayla Cooper will both be eligible to play at the end of the first semester and both will be counted on to make immediate impacts. Holland did not play in a game at Duke last season and has four years of eligibility left. She averaged more than 35 points per game as a high school senior. Cooper played two games last season at Georgetown and totaled 32 points and 17 rebounds in those games.
Freshman Kelsey Mitchell was the No. 1-ranked point guard in the 2014 class according to ESPN. She was Ohio's Ms. Basketball and the DI Player of the Year last year and averaged over 26 points per game. Her sister Chelsea is a 5-11 freshman forward who helped lead Princeton High School to a DI state title a year ago.
Freshman guard Asia Doss is a quick, 5-7 point guard from Detroit, Mich. She was an ESPN top-100 recruit who averaged better than 17 points and six rebounds last season. Forwards Alexa Hart and Mykala Waterman are both Ohio products who both played on state championship teams. Hart led Africentric to the 2014 state crown while Waterman was the co-MVP of the 2013 state tournament where she paced Fairmont to the DI state title.
The Buckeyes were 17-18 in McGuff's first season but together a little run in the Big Ten Tournament, upsetting No. 1-seed Penn State on the way to a semifinals appearance. This year's squad is young but has the skills that fit McGuff's up-tempo style.
MEDIA DAY QUOTES
Cait Craft, junior guard
On the difference between last year's and this year's team
"It is very different, but in a very positive way. There aren't as many familiar faces, but we're much more athletic, a lot quicker, and all the girls come ready to play. The younger girls are hungry, which is a great attribute to have. Hopefully, myself and the other older girls can lead them through a successful season."
On the advantage of being unknown
"We will definitely have the surprise factor coming out of the gate, especially those first few games. But we have the team chemistry right now. We get along very well together on and off the court, which will go a long way with a young team who doesn't have a lot of college basketball experience."
On not having her brother around the university
"It's awkward. Aaron is a protective soul. He always wants to know where you are and what you're doing, and it's very strange not seeing him here and on campus every day. We don't get to talk as much with him being out in California, but I went through the same thing when he left to come here, so I'll be handling it the same way."
On the ceiling for this team
"I really don't think there is one. If we stay on the right track, do what we're supposed to do, and trust our coaching staff, who I believe is the best in the country, I believe we can do whatever we set out to do this season."
Shayla Cooper, sophomore forward
On the identity of this year's team
"We're a much faster team. We like to get up and down the court as fast as we can and score easy buckets in transition, rather than sitting in our offense and playing half-court basketball."
On playing the four spot in this offense
"I love playing this spot in the offense. It's a four-out one-in offense, so I'm basically an extended guard. I've always wanted to play guard, and Coach McGuff believed in my guard skills enough to put me in a position to utilize them."
On the incoming freshman class
"This class is amazing. They're a true sparkplug for this team, and they're all hungry and eager to learn. It's really a blessing to have a young group like that coming in, and I think they'll play a major role in our success as a team."
Kianna Holland, freshman guard
On the freshmen talent
"The freshmen bring a sense of speed and athleticism. We have people who can shoot the ball and people like Kelsey (Mitchell) who does it all. Asia (Doss) is very quick and sees the floor very well. Alexa (Hart) will help us at the five-spot and is a really skilled player. Chelsea (Mitchell) can really shoot the ball and Makayla (Waterman) will be a huge factor at the four."
On dynamic guard play this season
"Kelsey (Mitchell) is a fantastic distributor of the ball. Last year, a lot was put on Ameryst's (Alston) shoulders but Kelsey should be able to lighten this load for her to give Ameryst more open, uncontested looks at the basket."
Ameryst Alston, junior guard
On the influx of talent this season
"We have a lot of great players mixing in with what we already had from last year. It's going to be a fun year to be able to play with them. The talent we have here now is exciting."
Kalpana Beach, redshirt sophomore forward
On returning to the court this season
"It's been forever since I've been on the court, but I'm definitely ready and excited. I feel exactly the same and feel like I can jump and shoot the ball just like I could before."
On the ability of the post players this season
"People are doubting the post right now, but I don't doubt the posts for a minute. A lot of people are probably underestimating us, but we're definitely ready for the challenge."
My Gameday - Stephanie Mavunga