Kyle Young has dealt with a lot during his career at Ohio State, but a new challenge awaits him heading into his senior season: playing without Kaleb Wesson.
Young has had a plethora of injuries derail his progression over his first three seasons with the Buckeyes, but when healthy, the 6-foot-8 forward has had a reliable scoring big in Wesson next to him on the block. Now, without Wesson’s 14 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, Young will be the most experienced player returning to Ohio State’s frontcourt.
Without Wesson’s post presence, Young, who has been known for his hustle and ability to haul in offensive rebounds — grabbing two per game in 2019 — said he has cut off a lot of body fat and gained muscle since last season.
“Playing in the post is something I’ve been doing and I like to do,” Young said Oct. 2 in a Zoom call. “I’m just going to keep working on doing that and get used to playing against guys that have more weight on me, so I just gotta use my quickness in that aspect and try to use other attributes to my advantage.”
Young averaged 7.5 points per game on 63.6 percent shooting his junior season.
Young’s potential was on display early in the 2019-20 season, collecting his first career double-double against Cincinnati in the season opener.
Racking in 14 points and 13 rebounds — seven of which were offensive rebounds — Young’s performance was nothing unexpected according to Wesson, who described Young after the game as a “high-energy guy who’s gonna go out there and do the dirty work for us.”
ButYoung’s junior campaign was plagued with injuries that forced him to miss six games, including the Buckeyes’ final four contests before the season was canceled.
Between an ankle sprain and undergoing an appendectomy, Young was unable to avoid the injury bug which has bothered him for most of his career.
Now, head coach Chris Holtmann said the Ohio native is “fully healthy” heading into the season, which is set to begin Nov. 25.
Along with renewed health, Holtmann said Young has improved in an area that he hasn’t explored much in the past: shooting.
“Kyle Young has shot the ball exceptionally well from three,” Holtmann said. “Everything we’ve evaluated this summer, everything we’ve charted — and we chart every shooting drill — he’s been top four on our team in 3-point shooting.”
In terms of perimeter shooting, Young is a career 13.8 percent 3-point shooter — a stark contrast to Wesson, who shot 38.5 percent from behind the arc during his three-year career.
Even Wesson, however, did not start his career with an ability to consistently hit the 3-point shot. As a freshman, Wesson hit just 28.6 percent of his shots from deep — a number which would peak at 42.5 percent his final year with the program.
Although Holtmann said the task of filling the shooting void left by the departure of both Kaleb Wesson and Andre Wesson will likely be “spread out among other guys,” the leadership on the team appears to be more condensed with Young and redshirt senior CJ Walker returning to the program.
“I just love the leadership of CJ (Walker) and Kyle. I think it’s outstanding. I think it’s just really, really good,” Holtmann said Sept. 21 on “Buckeye Roundtable” on 97.1 The Fan.
With leadership less of a concern, the Buckeyes can look to on-court obstacles that the 2020-21 team will face.
In terms of how the team looks to operate without its leading scorer from last season, the Buckeyes begin practice Wednesday to continue figuring out an identity without Kaleb Wesson.
“I think we definitely need to feel it out more and see how we’re going to play together and how we want to play together,” Young said. “Losing a guy like Kaleb and losing those guys is going to be a huge hit to the team, but we think we’re bringing in a lot of really good guys and we have a lot of good returning players just to fill that gap.”