Before every sports season starts, captains are voted upon. These are usually players with a veteran presence who lead by example, either physically and/or vocally. For the men’s basketball team, three were voted on prior to the season. Yet, last week they had a second meeting to re-vote. This isn’t a good sign, is it?
Justice Sueing, Zed Key and Isaac Likekele were all nominated to be the leaders of Team 124. These three guys have been veterans of the game or of the sport collegiately for at least three years. Sueing is now a sixth-year, Key is a junior and Likekele is a fifth-year transfer. Based off of this, one would think that the Buckeyes would be well-led.
However, over the course of the season, that hasn’t looked like it has been the case. The team has just looked like a disaster on the court. It’s also hard to go from the group of leaders last year, to a whole new crew this year.
Last year, the team was led by Kyle Young, E.J. Liddell, Cedric Russell and Jamari Wheeler, along with three other seniors. That is a quality group of leaders.
Sueing assumed into the leadership role, as this is his sixth-year playing college basketball, even though he was injured for the entirety of last season. Likekele showed promise during the summer as a transfer. And Key has been an important part of this team ever since his freshman year. So, it was pretty much given these guys would be captains.
Yet, this team just hasn’t clicked like last year’s. Anyone that watched them could just tell that these guys got along really well off the court, which translated into their play. They had fun posting on TikTok, they went out to eat together and overall were great friends. That’s not to say that this year’s team doesn’t get along, but they just haven’t known each other for as long since there are only three returning starters.
Having a team filled with freshmen and transfers has got to be difficult to manage from a leadership standpoint. Set aside the fact that you have to figure out who plays well together and what role everyone is going to play on the court. Who is going to step up and lead the team? When the majority of the team has never played together, it is nearly impossible to figure that out.
So, I guess that is why the team had a captain re-vote session last week. Freshman Bruce Thornton was named a captain, and the previous three remained captains. It’s rare to see a freshman step up vocally as much as Thornton has, but the team needs it. Apparently he has been one of two players to talk to the team after losses, including the loss to TTUN.
This locker room cannot fall apart. It’s hard to tell from the outside how solid of a group this really is, but for now, it still seems to be standing. Teammates cannot place blame on each other or turn on each other. The players insist that everything is fine between them. Clearly, they can get along somewhat, as they started the season 10-3 before falling to 11-12 this past weekend.
Whatever they were doing at the beginning of the season, they need to do that. Maybe Thornton being named captain is what this team needs— a new, passionate, young voice to lead them. The veterans need to hold themselves and the whole team accountable to keep grinding and finish the season strong. This may be a down year for the Bucks, but the core of this team will be on this team for years to come. Leadership cannot be a problem.