4.1. Through two seasons at Ohio State, Micah Potter’s career can be described by simply that number: 4.1.
As a freshman, Potter started in 12 games at center for a bad Ohio State team, 11 of which came at the beginning of the season before he was replaced by Trevor Thompson over some poor play (Thompson was, in retrospect, obviously the better player).
He averaged 4.1 points, which, while not great, showed potential, and was a decent number for a freshman center.
Last season, Micah started just four games for a better Ohio State team. Like his freshman season, those four starts came at the beginning of the season, before he was replaced at center by a better player.
As a freshman, losing out to an older player probably wasn’t seen as the end of a world. As a sophomore, losing out to a true-freshman, it could have felt real close to it.
Potter was challenged to hold Kaleb Wesson off from taking his job, and survived just four whole games. Unlike Potter, Wesson’s version of an encouraging freshman season saw 30 starts, and more than 10 points per game.
Potter on the other hand stayed right at 4.1 ppg for a second straight season. And, while his chances to break through aren’t gone, but they certainly might be fading.
There’s only going to be more talent being added to the roster from here on out. While his classmate Andre Wesson — Kaleb’s older brother— has carved out a spot in the rotation for the foreseeable future, Potter though has yet to do that.
Obviously he’ll get playing time, but when looking at this roster, there’s really not a starting spot for him to take. You can’t play him with Kaleb, and Kaleb isn’t coming off of the bench. Since Potter can’t really shoot well enough to be a stretch-4, and he’s not a particularly elite defender or rebounder, there’s no real reason to give him anything but bench minutes, filling in when Kaleb needs a breather.
It doesn’t have to be that way though, and if Potter wants to avoid being replaced completely, something has to click. It certainly doesn’t bode well for him that Ohio State just signed Jaedon LeDee, a 6-foot-9 tweener big with solid offense, great rebounding, and the athleticsim to defend top-level big men. That’s exactly what the Buckeyes spent the last two years hoping that Micah would become, and because he couldn’t get it done, they brought in someone else who might be able to.
Micah fading into a bench warmer, like I said, doesn’t have to happen. It isn’t an inevitability. There’s still a place for the Ohio native on the team, but he has to change his game. Obviously that’s easier said than done, and Potter can’t just snap his fingers and have an entirely different playing style.
However, there are things that Potter can improve relatively easily. He obviously can’t get much more athletic, and knowing more about the game can only take you so far, but he can improve his shooting, specifically from outside. He can work on the missed dunks and layups that he suffered from last season. He can get stronger, more aggressive, and more comfortable on the court.
Now, it’s not fair to expect the junior to suddenly become a knock-down shooter in one offseason; he was just 30 percent from three last season. And, no matter how many times he tried, his jumper just wasn’t consistently hitting. Working on a more sustainable form, and improving to 35 percent from three would be a huge deal for a big man, and would give Ohio State a reason to give Potter significant playing time.
He wouldn’t start, but against bigger teams, or a zone team (like Syracuse, who Ohio State plays in November), a big man who can shoot would be perfect for stretching defenses out.
What is fair to expect from Potter, and possibly the biggest issue that Ohio State fans have had with him during each of the last two seasons, is cutting down on some of the unforced errors that he makes. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a man that can obviously dunk, miss so many open dunks because the rim, or the back iron rejected him.
He goes for the huge dunk far too often, and it comes back to bite him at an absurd rate. I don’t have his missed dunk numbers, but I’d be willing to bet that he missed at least five dunks last year. That just can’t happen, and if he takes that out of his game, he scores at least two more points per game.
Even if he improves his shooting, fixes his bad dunk habits, and works towards being a more aggressive and effective defender and rebounder, Potter may still not see the court much this season. He played under ten minutes of each of the last five games of the season last year, which more than likely indicates a lack of trust from the coaching staff.
With a more talented roster— and more great players on the way soon— it’s now or never for Micah Potter. He may never be a star, but if he wants to contribute at Ohio State, this is the year he has to do it.