On Thursday afternoon, former Minnesota forward Jamison Battle announced he was transferring to Ohio State for his final year of eligibility. Battle, who transferred from George Washington to Minnesota in the summer of 2021, will be a graduate of the University of Minnesota and therefore will not need to sit one year, per NCAA guidelines.
Ohio State fans should be relatively familiar with the 6-foot-7, 220-pound lefty, as he’s played in the Big Ten for two seasons now and tangled with the Buckeyes thrice, going 1-2 in the process and averaging just over 12 points per game in those appearances. If they’ve watched him beyond just those three games (if you don’t watch Minnesota basketball, that’s understandable), then they’ll know that Battle might be the perfect addition to this roster, even if he doesn’t quite reach his full potential.
Here’s what Chris Holtmann’s Buckeyes are getting with Battle, and some logic as to why he was a massive target for this coaching staff:
A big body on the perimeter
With the departure of Justice Sueing and Brice Sensabaugh’s likely exit for the NBA Draft, Ohio State is suddenly without both of its starting forwards from last season. Scotty Middleton and Devin Royal are both high four-star recruits and will likely see some starts next season, but starting any combination of Royal, Middleton, Tanner Holden, and Kalen Etzler is a great recipe for another 13th-place finish in the Big Ten (respectfully). A move had to be made.
The transfer portal was pretty heavy with guards this year, while forwards were a bit harder to come by. Battle was one of the best power forwards looking to transfer, and he will slide right in to Ohio State’s starting lineup in November, likely alongside one of the aforementioned talented freshmen.
At 6-foot-7 and just over 220 pounds, Battle is big enough to finish in traffic and could surprise people with his rebounding, but his biggest asset is his three-point shot. Back and foot injuries — plus playing on a horrendous Minnesota team last year — impacted his numbers, but Battle is still a 35% three-point shooter for his career and he takes them in bunches.
Someone to stretch the floor, open up driving lanes
MINNESOTA!— The Field of 68 (@TheFieldOf68) March 3, 2023
The Gophers erased a 10 point deficit in the final 65 seconds. Can Rutgers still dance? pic.twitter.com/qZyREmPBzQ
With Sueing, Sensabaugh, and Sean McNeil gone, that leaves Ohio State without three of its top four three-point shooters from last season. Those three combined to hit 61.5% of the Buckeyes’ threes last season, and Chris Holtmann and his staff are now tasked with replacing those makes somehow. Battle is a good start.
For his career, Battle averages 7.1 three-point attempts per game and 5.1 two-point attempts. That’s not quite “Justin Ahrens” range, but Battle has historically preferred to knock down jumpers as opposed to driving. However, 42% of his shots have come from inside the arc, so he won’t exclusively operate on the outside. And with his size, he can finish at the rim.
Before seeing his numbers dip drastically last season, Battle shot 37%, 35%, and 37% from distance in his first three years in college. Holtmann is certainly banking on him returning to that level, so that the tandem of Zed Key and Felix Okpara will have room to operate below the basket. Battle drawing attention on the outside will also help Roddy Gayle and Bruce Thornton be the best versions of themselves — to guys who are at their best when able to carve inside for higher percentage looks around the basket.
It’s cliché and sometimes overused, but as of now Battle and Holden are the two most experienced players on the 2023-24 roster. Much was made about the youth of last season’s team, but next season’s roster will still include a whopping eight underclassmen — four freshmen and four sophomores.
Gayle, Thornton, and Okpara have all experienced the grind of a full Big Ten season now, and their youth will no longer be used as an excuse if and when struggles happen. Still, this Ohio State team is shaping up to only have three or four upperclassmen, including Battle. There’s a good chance he will be voted one of the team captains come August, alongside Thornton and Key.
An able (but not great) defender
Ohio State’s last two recruiting classes have clearly kept a close eye on the defensive side of the ball. Sensabaugh is the outlier, but Thornton, Gayle, and Okpara all proved to be average to above-average defenders last season, with plenty of room to grow. Middleton hasn’t even arrived yet, but expectations are sky high for the 6-foot-6 versatile wing from Miami. We can finally begin to slide some of these pieces around in our minds and see what Holtmann and his coaching staff have been formulating over the past two-plus years on the defensive end.
Battle does not bring a defensive pedigree to Columbus, although it’s hard to recall too many instances where his defense stuck out as obtusely poor. At his size, he can’t switch onto many guards or centers, but can bounce between the three and four. He averages exactly two personal fouls per game and only has 53 career steals and 42 career blocks over four years, so I wouldn’t categorize him as the biggest risk taker on defense.
He’ll guard his man, but don’t expect Battle to jump many passing lanes or reject many shots at the rim.
A man of many talents
Can your favorite @bigten athlete play the saxophone?— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) January 16, 2023
Jamison Battle (@battletime510) can, and it's just one of the many things that makes the @GopherMBB star so well-rounded. @BTNJourney - 6 ET | 1/18 | @BigTenNetwork pic.twitter.com/JPsmDFOtHx
Including the saxophone, apparently?
Someone who can (and will) take over games
JAMISON BATTLE ‼️— Minnesota Men's Basketball (@GopherMBB) November 10, 2021
: B1G+ pic.twitter.com/LDIBkAqx7y
Perhaps the biggest knock on Chris Holtmann’s transfer portal moves to this point is that he rarely goes out and adds a player with a “killer” mentality that can score in bunches. Instead, Ohio State has filled specific niche roles and valued experience — sometimes it’s worked out, and sometimes it hasn’t.
Battle does bring experience and some other attributes in small quantities, but his biggest asset is that he can flat-out score the basketball. On top of that, he’s already done it in the Big Ten, averaging 17.5 points per game as a junior at Minnesota and 12.4 PPG last year as a senior.
Holden brought the enticing possibility of big-time scoring ability, but for one reason or another it simply has not materialized to this point. Battle, on the other hand, scored 10+ points in all but 12 games at Minnesota, including 17 games scoring 20 or more points and two games scoring 30-plus. There were nights where Battle would score eight or 10 straight points for the Gophers, keeping a putrid offense afloat even if the end result was still a loss by the final buzzer.
There will be games where he puts up a crooked number while also being inefficient — that comes with the territory when adding someone with the offensive splits Battle has. But because he’s not reluctant to shoot the ball, his floor is very high. He may not average 17 points per game again, but 10-12 PPG looks like his floor, with the possibility of much more.
For the first time since arriving in Columbus six years ago, Holtmann went out and grabbed a bucket-getter, with little concern about the other stuff. Take the points, and worry about the rest later.