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Ironman Andre: Elder Wesson, most under appreciated Buckeye in recent memory

As his final season at Ohio State nears, we take a closer look at why Andre Wesson is so valuable to his team

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Nebraska
Andre Wesson jostles for a loose ball with James Palmer Jr. of Nebraska
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

There may be no better example of the type of player Andre Wesson is than what happened on December 15th, 2018. Ohio State, ranked 15th in the AP Poll at the time, was battling a feisty Bucknell team at home. With the Buckeyes down 4 in the second half, Wesson dove for a loose ball and ended up underneath Bucknell center Nate Sestina.

Wesson’s face struck the floor, and he stayed there for a minute, kicking the ground and holding his face. He lost three teeth from the fall, but would return to the game minutes later with a mouth guard, and helped the Buckeyes complete a comeback win over the Bison. Wesson finished with 4 points, 2 assists, and a then-career high 9 rebounds, 4 of which were of the offensive variety.

Andre Wesson may never score 30 points in a game, nor should we expect him to. But if the Buckeyes are going to get close to 30 wins, he is going to be a big reason why. Often overlooked, Andre Wesson brings skills to the table that simply cannot be taught. He hustles for every loose ball, crashes the boards every single possession, and makes it his personal mission to shut down whoever he is matched up with on defense.

In addition to his aggressiveness and tenacity on the defensive end, he can also match up with the opposing team’s wings, guards occasionally, or even a center if need be. In Andre Wesson, Chris Holtmann has a defensive swiss army knife whom he can match up with anyone at any time, for the most part. Need your memory jogged? No problem.

On February 7th, 2018, the 14th ranked Buckeyes took a trip to West Lafayette to take on #3 Purdue in Mackey Arena. Chris Holtmann was coaching Ohio State in Mackey for the first time, but his team at Butler had played there, and he knew the crowd would be loud, intimidating, and distracting. The Buckeyes closed the first half of that game down 31-29, but Purdue center Isaac Haas had 16 points matched up with then-freshman Kaleb Wesson.

In the second half, Holtmann made the bold decision to switch the elder Wesson onto Haas, who is 8 inches taller than Andre Wesson. He harassed Haas for the final 20 minutes of the game, forcing him to pass rather than take shots in the post. Haas scored 2 points in the second half, finishing with 18. The Buckeyes won the game, 64-63. Andre Wesson scored a career-high 13.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Purdue
Ohio State’s Andre Wesson shoots a three over Purdue’s Isaac Haas on February 7th, 2018
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Wesson enters the 2019 season as the lone senior on this Ohio State team aside from walk-on Danny Hummer. He started 34 of Ohio State’s 35 games last season, and played 30 minutes a game, something even his brother Kaleb was unable to do. This young Ohio State team will rely on him for guidance and to steady the ship if things get rocky. He was on the team when it seemed that the program had hit the bottom, losing to Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament and not even securing a bid to the NIT when he was a freshman.

Thad Matta resigned, Chris Holtmann came in, and Andre Wesson remained. He is the lone player remaining who was a Buckeye when Thad Matta was head coach three years ago. He has improved in nearly every statistic you can count, and that doesn’t include his much improved defense and passing. He upped his scoring output from 2.9 to 8.6 points per game between his sophomore and junior seasons. His rebounds per game more than doubled, jumping from 1.8 to 4.1. He also averaged almost 2 assists per game last season, and his free throw percentage held steady right around 75%. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find an area where he has not improved.

Andre Wesson epitomizes why so many people love to watch college basketball. He isn’t an NBA draft prospect, and he may or may not have a professional career awaiting him when he’s finished in Columbus. He never takes a play off on either end of the floor, and is always willing to put his body on the line for an extra possession.

The 2019 season is it for Andre, and we should all be excited to see him don the scarlet and gray for one final season. So while it will be easy to become enamored with the uber-talented freshmen and the new slimmed down Kaleb Wesson, the glue that’s holding this ship together is really Andre Wesson, and he deserves more love than he’s often given.

Oh, and he tore the hearts out of every person in the state of Indiana. Can’t forget that.