In this series, we’re talking some of our favorite Ohio State families, kicking things off with a pair of brothers on the basketball court.
Being the younger sibling is tough. And sometimes, being the older one is tougher.
However, there are those rare occasions where sibling rivalry doesn’t feel like a rivalry at all, and is instead a partnership where things get better because you’re together.
And that’s where Kaleb and Andre Wesson seem to fall.
How could you not love them? The Wessons have all the hallmarks of a feel good story. For starters, they’re both from Columbus and played their high school ball at Westerville South, winning a state championship together in 2016. For many in Columbus, we lived the dream of seeing the pair growing up and playing together in high school.
There’s also the fact their father, Keith, played at Ohio State in the 1980s, which really drives home the whole family affair thing — along with the fact that Stephanie, Andre and Kaleb’s mother, and Keith attended nearly all the brothers’ games alongside a slew of other family members.
We knew from the start that Kaleb, the larger forward and four-star recruit, would be the relative star at Ohio State. Kaleb committed to Thad Matta in 2015, nearly a year before his older brother, himself a three-star recruit, would. Kaleb was named Ohio Mr. Basketball in 2017 after a spectacular senior season at Westerville South.
However, that difference in expectations didn’t make Andre’s contributions any less relevant during his time in Columbus.
Andre came to Ohio State in 2016 and played in 29 games as a freshman before Kaleb joined the team a year later along with new head coach, Chris Holtmann. It’s particularly important to note that Andre opted to stick around in Columbus and Kaleb chose to remain committed to Ohio State despite the departure of Thad Matta and the changes that would inevitably come with the new coaching regime.
However, things turned out to be good under Holtmann in his first few seasons as the Buckeyes steadily returned to prominence. While Andre came off the bench and played more limited minutes in his first two seasons, Kaleb’s impact was immediate in his true freshman season, starting 30 games and averaging a very respectable 10 points per game. It would turn out to be the best team the Wesson’s played for, with the Buckeyes finishing the regular season tied for second in the Big Ten standings. Keita Bates-Diop, CJ Jackson and Jae’Sean Tate provided the veteran leadership that meant Kaleb didn’t need to be the team’s go-to player from the start.
The pair came into their stride during the 2018-19 season, with Andre getting into an offensive groove and averaging 8.6 points per game, while Kaleb averaged 14.6 to lead the Buckeyes in scoring. The departure of Bates-Diop and Tate meant all eyes were on Kaleb. While the Buckeyes had a solid non-conference season, jumping to a 12-3 record, the team dropped its first five conference games and could never quite find their footing in a tough Big Ten. Still, the Buckeyes would win an NCAA Tournament game for the second-straight season.
Heading into the 2019-20 season, Kaleb would once again lead Ohio State in scoring as a junior with 14 points per game, while Andre improved to 9.2 points per game as he wrapped up his Buckeye playing career. The Buckeyes finished tied for fifth in the Big Ten regular season standings, but had been riding a wave of momentum that included winning four of their last five conference games, including three over ranked opponents.
In the end, the brothers played three seasons together, starting the majority alongside one another in their final two seasons in Columbus. Both seemed to reinforce one another and make each other better during their time playing together. Plus, it was cool to see them on the court at the same time.
Of course, all fairytales have to come to an end. After the 2019-20 season — Andre’s senior season — abruptly ended due to COVID-19, Kaleb opted to enter the NBA Draft, thus ending both Wesson’s runs at Ohio State. It was bittersweet, as the Buckeyes had a solid team with a real shot to make a run in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, and certainly cut what had been the brothers’ best season short.
On a broader scale, in retrospect, the Wessons played a critical part in establishing Chris Holtmann’s tenure as head coach. We’ve seen how common it has become to transfer to a new program, especially following a coaching change. It would have been so easy for Kaleb, who was the top-ranked recruit in Ohio, to choose to go elsewhere. It would also have made sense for Andre to try his luck elsewhere. Let’s be honest: The last couple years under Matta were not good, and Holtmann was walking into a challenging situation. The fact the Wessons opted to stick around speaks to their character and willingness to put in the work — and that work allowed Ohio State basketball to bounce back.