Mark Titus' legacy as Ohio State's most visible walk-on won't soon be bested -- but that doesn't diminish the importance of having viable ones to help push the men's basketball team on and off the court alike.
Chanting for the walk-on has become a time honored tradition in college basketball across the country, but with a relatively short bench and two walk-ons on the team last year, the sight of Jake Lorbach on the court, especially during non-conference play, was hardly an upset last year.
Unfortunately due to a back injury, we won't be seeing Andrew Goldstein back in uniform this season. Lorbach's partner in crime last season will instead transition into a role as a "coaching intern" with the team to begin pursuing a career in that field.
But the Elyria, OH product Lorbach is back for one last college try. And perhaps another dunk or two?
Previous season stats: Lorbach graced us with his presence in eight different contests a year ago, five out of conference and three in Big Ten play. He scored a career high against Bryant, recording three shots on three attempts and finishing with six points, all in the final two minutes of game action.
There was no reprise of the 2012-2013 free throw he hit against Iona in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament in 2014. The Buckeyes' game against Dayton infamously didn't go as planned and everyone's postseason was cut shorter than it should've been.
A look back:
Lorbach saw his second year in the basketball program in 2013-2014. He tripled his minutes from four to 14, and scored three times as many points his second season with the team than he did in his first. He quickly became a fan favorite after photobombing LeBron James on national television and in the process put together one of the more impressive social media presences this side of Michael Bennett.
The one area for concern was free throws. Though the average fan was more than thrilled to see Lorbach get any burn at all, he did miss all three of his free throw attempts during the '13-14 season. Like a pinch hitter coming off the pine to try and come through with a clutch hit late in a baseball game, it's hard to come off cold and just start knocking down freebies. But that isn't going to stop OSU hoops hardcores from expecting the best, even from the walk-ons.
Arguably the high point of Lorbach's season (besides the 6 points he scored in the game) came when he dunked the ball against Bryant after catching and outlet from Shannon Scott. Thad Matta joked "he's a volleyball player" in that game's post game press conference but expanded upon his statement to add:
"I am happy for Jake that the ball went in for him," Matta said. "He's been in this program for a year-and-a-half. Every single day, he comes in and he works. Those moves he made, he's working them every single day. It's exciting for him and for the guys because they know how hard he's worked."
The sentiment still rings true today. Walk-on's bust their butt, mostly for the benefits of others. Yet they're as important as anyone to the success of the team, and we're all as lucky to get Lorbach for another season as he is to play a final one.
Outlook for 2014-2015:
Could Lorbach finally crack the vaunted two minutes per contest appeared in threshold? While that'd be awesome, this team is deeper than almost any Buckeye basketball team in recent memory.
When non-conference games are decided, he'll get some minutes and the home crowd will go nuts. It's unlikely given the number of warm bodies that need regular court time it'll extend beyond that (pending some sort of M.A.S.H. unit scenario), but that won't make Lorbach's role any less important
Best case scenario:
Lorbach breaks a backboard NBA Jam style, fireworks explode from the roof of Value City Arena, and he high fives the entire Nuthouse like Cal Ripken the night he reached 2,131 consecutive games played.
Worst case scenario:
Lorbach gets even fewer minutes than last season but is still a critical cog in the Ohio State basketball industrial complex during his final season on the team and OSU reaches a Sweet 16 or Elite 8.