Coaching changes always bring with them a newfound wave of confidence and excitement as a new regime settles in.
For the Ohio State men's basketball team, then, it's to be expected that a new vibe is permeating activities in and around Value City Arena.
A new coach, however, isn't all that has the Buckeyes bouncing. Although the roster is at least one more body short, those who remain in the program are describing a level of commitment often preached about but seldom realized during two disappointing seasons culminating with the firing of coach Thad Matta in June.
Last week, less than a month after Chris Holtmann was named as Matta's replacement, fifth-year senior guard Kam Williams described a team that has "bought in" to what the coaching staff is selling.
On Thursday, sophomore center Micah Potter echoed those thoughts.
"Workouts this morning were awesome," Potter said. "We had the music pumping. We're all on the same page now. We're all bought in, 10 toes in. It feels really good."
It's easy rhetoric when the first opportunity to play another team is still nearly four months away. It's a sentiment that was also mentioned by the likes of JaQuan Lyle and Trevor Thompson, among others, after Ohio State lost four freshmen from its 2015-16 team. Since then, though, Lyle quit the team, Thompson left early for the NBA only to go undrafted, and senior Marc Loving exhausted his eligibility.
The result is a roster standing at nine players, including former walk-on Joey Lane and pending the arrival of Musa Jallow, who is graduating high school early to enroll at Ohio State this August. It's tightknit by necessity, but that's not the only reason.
"No matter what, we're still going to have to play no matter what happens," Williams said. "The way that the core guys who are 10 toes in, we know where we finished (last year). If coach says something, do it. No ifs, ands or buts. We all want to pitch in at this point because there's been a lot going on. If we are all in this together, we can conquer anything."
That's not to say the changes are all internal. Potter credited a boost of energy provided by new strength and conditioning coach Quadrian Banks, as well as the benefit of having a full-time nutritionist working with the team. But the talk has been as much about the players who remain as the circumstances around them that have changed. And what if everyone had been so "bought in" before, like the Buckeyes proclaim themselves to be this year?
"It's really hard to say, a hypothetical like that, but I definitely think it would've helped tremendously, no doubt about that," Williams said.