Amani Burke (3) drives to the basket against Kent State in the Convocation Center Saturday. (MATT STARKEY | FILE)
Ohio wants to run the fast break well this season, and that’s because it has the personnel to do so.
While the Bobcats had 6-foot-2-inch tall forwards Jasmine Weatherspoon and Kelly Karlis last season, both are gone this season — Weatherspoon graduated, and Karlis transferred to Wisconsin.
Now, one of the team’s tallest players is Olivia Bower, a 6-foot-1-inch junior forward.
The Bobcats will miss Weatherspoon’s and Karlis’ size, but, in losing that size, they have gained an ability to run the break well.
“I think it’s an option that we haven’t necessarily focused on in the past,” junior forward Kendall Jessing said.
Ohio didn’t run the break much last season. With bigger players, the Bobcats needed to play slightly slower because they weren’t suited to do otherwise. This caused the Bobcats to focus more on having good ball movement in the half court, which was beneficial.
The Bobcats have multi-dimensional players — forwards and bigs need to be able to shoot and drive in their offense. That versatility allowed them to spread the floor and find quality shots.
Having good ball movement in half-court play will still be essential, but playing faster will be, too. If the Bobcats can successfully do both, their lack of size won’t be as big an issue.
“I think we do a good job at our initial 15 seconds trying to score as fast as we can,” Jessing said.
Jessing said now the Bobcats have a better knowledge as to when to push the fast break, as well as how to do it.
The fast break is supposed to be the epitome of organized chaos. As players fly down the floor looking for a quick bucket, they’re also supposed to be scanning the floor for teammates to pass to. If the break fails, players also must know when to suddenly stop and let the half-court offense develop.
Junior guard Dominique Doseck said the coaching staff wants the team to rebound the ball and immediately speed down the floor. Though Ohio has the roster to play fast — most of the team is made up of guards — an adjustment period will be necessary.
“We’re used to playing faster, but we’re not used to playing as fast as we can go,” Doseck said.
Most of the time, the Bobcats will look for their point guard, or whoever can handle the ball, to lead the break. But Ohio’s versatility will be advantageous on the break. With most players on the team able to handle the ball, that allows the break to be more fluid.
The Bobcats won’t necessarily have to make sure Doseck or redshirt senior guard Taylor Agler, the team’s point guards, have the ball to begin the break.
“We can all run the floor, and that’s good because our post players will be able to out run other bigger post players,” Agler said.
With players like Jessing who can run the floor as a forward, the Bobcats have the potential to be the one of the most up-tempo teams in the Mid-American Conference.
But even if the Bobcats don’t always have the break at their disposal, they have a half-court offense that is rooted in versatility, too.
“You’re not used to a (center) being able to shoot the ball,” Jessing said. “You’re not used to a (small forward) being able to post up. So, with that in mind, it really gives us hopefully the competitive advantage in all of our games.”