The regular season for Ohio State women’s basketball is less than a month away. On Nov. 6, the Buckeyes face a soon-to-be Big Ten foe: The USC Trojans.
Before the ball tips, Land-Grant Holy Land has player previews for all 15 on the scarlet and gray roster. Up first is a career Buckeye entering her fifth and final season in Columbus who’s gone through a tough year of injuries. Guard Jacy Sheldon is a key piece of the 2023 Elite Eight team, and the way she goes could be the way the Buckeyes go in 23-24.
Name: Jacy Sheldon
Class: Graduate Senior
High School: Dublin Coffman (Dublin, Ohio)
2022-23 Stats: 13.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.5 apg, 3.5 spg .432 FG%, .237 3FG%, .878FT%
The best word to describe Sheldon for the uninitiated is relentless. Head coach Kevin McGuff likes to run a fast, in your face, defensive press and Sheldon makes it frightening for opponents.
In the first five games of the 22-23 season, Sheldon averaged six steals per game, coming up big against the Tennessee Volunteers to start the campaign. Sheldon had eight steals against the SEC side, on top of 14 points and seven assists. The 87-75 Ohio State win foreshadowed a historic season for the Buckeyes, starting with 19 straight wins.
When the Buckeyes followed up that win with a victory over Boston College, Sheldon had a double-double with 14 points and a program record-tying 11 steals. It looked like the Central Ohio guard was on her way to a National Defensive Player of the Year type of season, but after Sheldon’s fifth appearance on Nov. 30, the guard didn’t see the court again until February.
A foot injury sidelined the star. While the Buckeyes kept their run of wins going, when it came to the biggest conference games of the season against the Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes and Maryland Terrapins, her absence was noticeable.
Sheldon’s return was short lived, playing 25 minutes in a blowout 90-54 defeat to Maryland on Feb. 5, sitting again until the Big Ten Tournament.
In the tournament, Sheldon came off the bench for all three games in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After grabbing six steals in three games, four against the Hoosiers where the Buckeyes came back from down 24 points late in the second quarter, Sheldon returned to the lineup for the NCAA Tournament.
While Sheldon wasn’t at the same defensive intensity level as the beginning of the season, still looking impacted by the injury, offensively the guard surged. Sheldon averaged 17.3 points and 5.0 assists per game, including a game-winning shot against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second round.
What to Expect
After four seasons in Columbus, Sheldon’s work doesn’t need much introduction. The guard is two seasons removed from being Ohio State’s top scorer, even passing two-year Buckeye Taylor Mikesell in the process.
Sheldon drives to the hoop, hits midrange jumpers and finds outlets better than almost everyone on the roster. Although three-point shooting isn’t the guard’s forte, her movement off the ball garners more attention from teammates and the issues it causes defenses will give others more opportunities to make an impact.
Defensively, Sheldon’s relentlessness combined with Duke transfer guard, and fellow graduate senior, Celeste Taylor will create the defensive edition of the Mikesell/Sheldon “splash sisters” moniker. Enter the “steal sisters” era of Ohio State basketball.
Position-wise, Sheldon’s the expected point guard, a role she took on in Jan. 2022 when injuries moved her there. Sheldon excelled at it and held it still at the beginning of the 22/23 season, while point guard Madison Greene returned from a preseason knee injury in 2021.
At preseason media availability, Greene’s 2022 knee injury has her on a timeline to return sometime in November. No one on the Buckeyes are rushing her back. When Greene does return, it’ll be interesting how Ohio State moves players around. That could put Sheldon back at shooting guard, the role held for most of her first three seasons of NCAA basketball.
Regardless of position, expect a player with a seemingly endless motor to be on the court a lot. The rare times Sheldon isn’t on the court, she’s in coach McGuff’s ear to get back onto it. So long as the foot injury doesn’t return, it could be a career season.
The 21/22 All-Defensive and First Team Big Ten selection entered 22/23 with warranted hype, and last year’s injury quieted the talk slightly, giving Sheldon the opportunity to remind the basketball world about her impact.
Ohio State and Sheldon can do that, granted they make up for the big offensive gap created by Mikesell’s eligibility running out and her entering the professional ranks. Sheldon will be an important piece of filling that hole.
Let’s run back that game-winning shot against the North Carolina Tar Heels. It shows Sheldon’s ability to dribbling through defenders, getting low to the ground, and stopping in her tracks to hit the shot that sent Ohio State to Seattle and the Sweet Sixteen.