October 15, 2009

Men's hoops: 2009 story lines

COLUMBUS - Ohio State head basketball coach [/db]Thad Matta[/db] spoke with all the camera lights shining off of his face at the Schottenstein Center Thursday for the annual basketball media day.

It isn't officially basketball season just yet, but the Buckeyes take the floor for practice tomorrow to get things going for the 2009-10 campaign.

Surprisingly enough, there are quite a variety of story lines that surround a team that hasn't added any freshman talent this season. Instead, injuries, new personnel, and extra experience surround the look of what we all consider an unfamiliar team.

Same faces, different look is the way to look at it.

The Buckeyes met with the local media dressed in their uniforms after taking team photos Thursday, and BuckeyeGrove.com was on the scene to speak with the team about these specific story lines.

Lauderdale's injury to keep him out early

Ohio State got some bad news early in the week when it was announced that center Dallas Lauderdale had broken a bone in his hand and will most likely keep him out anywhere from 4-6 weeks.

Lauderdale said the injury happened during practice.

"I received a pass from Evan and I was going up to try and score and P.J. stripped me, but I guess he kind of hit the hand and I guess he had to hit the right exact spot, too," Lauderdale said. "It wasn't P.J.'s fault. It was in the heat of the game."

Lauderdale said he will continue to workout with the team when practice kicks off Friday and is hoping to be back before the Buckeyes open their season against Alcorn State Nov. 9.

Though the prognosis says he should miss the aforementioned time, there is a possibility if it heals properly that he could come back earlier and play with a pad or stint on it.

"I really don't know if I will be able to play in a pad, that's up to my trainer and my coaches," Lauderdale said. "Whenever I can come back I am going to come back."

Though Lauderdale will miss a lot of time during Ohio State's preparation for the season over the course of the next few weeks, he doesn't think he will be set back too much.

"There's nothing long with my legs so I can keep getting into shape and keep running," Lauderdale said. "I have to perfect my left hand and when my right hand comes back just do some extra work on that."

Matta said he hopes to have Lauderdale back by the start of the season.

"I always look at it the most positive way I can," Matta said, "so I think we could get him back by the start of the season."

Time for Sarikopoulos to step up

Nobody has seen Zisis Sarikopoulos play just yet, but the need for him to step up is already there, particularly in the early goings of the season while Lauderdale continues to heal up from his hand injury.

Sarikopoulos, who transferred to Ohio State last year from UAB, will be the one filling in Lauderdale's shoes at center while the Solon (Ohio) native is out. Kyle Madsen is also a guy who will see his role expand while Lauderdale is out.

"Both me and Kyle are going to have to work double as hard now that Dallas is out, and I am willing to put the effort to overcome when Dallas is out," Sarikopoulos said. "Now that Dallas is out for a month, we have to work on Dallas' area of rebounding and doing the things he did best."

Sarikopoulos has not yet been seen by Ohio State fans, but the 7-footer feels as if he has plenty to offer in the paint and he is looking forward to putting that on display this season.

"I really like to organize the game," Sarikopoulos said. "When I get into the post, I like to see everything set up and have our cutters and shooters set up. I can dribble, I can pass, or I can score. I like to create the game."

Transferring from UAB, Sarikopoulos admitted that the culture at Ohio State in terms of pride for athletics is much more prevalent, thus admitting he enjoyed being in Columbus more.

"Everybody is excited here about basketball. In Alabama, everything is different and people are different," Sarikopoulos said. "I like it here more, to be honest."

Lighty has things to prove

David Lighty has long been regarded as the best defender on the Buckeye basketball squad, if not one of the best in the Big Ten.

Last season, he didn't get to prove it after sitting practically all season with an injury.

Now, Lighty said he has some things to prove, especially because the Buckeyes will be playing man-to-man defense more than 75 percent of the time, a system in which Lighty has thrived in the past.

"I have been waiting for (the man-to-man) for a while," Lighty said, who played that form of defense for the Buckeyes three seasons ago. "They kept it under raps, I guess you could say, but it is something that we could have tried to do. I am looking forward to it this year and that's one of the things with everyone coming back, that's something that we can put on ourselves to accomplish and do well with this season."

Sitting out has been tough on Lighty, but he has been back in the practice groove for a while. Now he is just looking forward to getting out on the floor and contributing yet again.

"It was tough last season because I wasn't able to have a factor in whether we on or lost," Lighty said. "I have been waiting for a long time to get back, and I think we will do some good things this year. It is just exciting."

Can Turner handle the point guard?

One of the biggest downfalls the Buckeyes had last season was the lack of a pure point guard, and though that may not have been remedied this year with a new recruit at the point, Ohio State has focused on making its star player effective at the position.

Evan Turner has been working diligently the entire off-season at the position and will be the starter come the beginning of the year at the point.

Turner has been regarded as the best player on the team, so presumably putting the ball more in the best player's hands isn't a bad thing and Turner feels as if he is ready.

"It has been going pretty well. Coach Matta has been showing me the system and teaching me different ways to attack," Turner said. "It is going good, I am learning more and more. I think I can be successful there. It is just another position that I am going to be playing."

As the days continue to progress, BuckeyeGrove.com will run more thorough stories on the aforementioned topics, so be sure to check back at the website frequently.

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