There was a time not too long ago when Evan Ravenel was ready to put basketball permanently in his past and he was perfectly content with that decision.
Though he had spent two years playing college basketball at Boston College, his desire to continue on that path was suddenly gone when he learned that his coach Al Skinner had been fired.
“When you sign with a college, you sign to a coach and to a family that you really want to be a part of,” Ravenel told BSB. “It felt like when my coaches got fired at BC that they were tearing apart my family. I was just going to go back home and finish my two years of school and start a life.”
That’s when fate intervened.
During Ravenel’s recruitment process, he and his father, Eugene, an AAU coach, began what turned out to be a close relationship with current Ohio State assistant Dave Dickerson, who was then the head coach at Tulane.
Though the 6-8, 260-pound big man eventually decided to play at Boston College for Skinner, his father continued his relationship with Dickerson long after his son’s recruitment ended because of the father’s position among amateur basketball talent.
Then what set out to be a friendly phone call from Eugene to Dickerson rapidly – and unexpectedly – changed the course of Evan’s life.
“I was just calling to congratulate him because he got the opportunity with Ohio State and we were talking,” recalled Eugene, now coaching the AAU team Florida Select. “Then Coach Dickerson said what he always says: ‘Are you ready for your son to come play for me?’ I laughed because I told him he might be in luck because Evan wanted to leave Boston College. The timing was just coincidental.”
Having already established the importance of playing for a coach who was familiar to him, Evan immediately jumped at the opportunity to transfer to Ohio State to play under Dickerson.
It didn’t take him long before he was a member of a new family.
Already one of the team jokesters, Evan said the Buckeyes, who have become known for sporting unparalleled team chemistry, immediately embraced him.
“Everybody at Ohio State has been accepting of me,” said Ravenel, expected to play a combination of power forward and center for the Buckeyes this year. “The family around here shows a lot of love.”
Perhaps the most important friendship Ravenel developed early in his time at Ohio State was with center Jared Sullinger, one of the best big men in college basketball. He was introduced to Sullinger’s father, Satch, who now refers to him as his adopted son.
But it is Ravenel’s bond with Sullinger on the court that could be most beneficial to his role on an Ohio State team with aspirations of making another deep run in the postseason.
The work began last year as Ravenel sat out the season per NCAA transfer rules. Permitted to partake only in practice in his first season with the Buckeyes, he said he found a new commitment to basketball that may have been lacking at times at Boston College.
Facing Sullinger in the post daily in practice certainly helped.
“It is extremely beneficial to work out against a player of his caliber and actually be able to learn and use the things he teaches me,” Ravenel said. “You would think because he is a younger player that you wouldn’t be able to learn something, but playing with someone like Jared helps out a lot. Not a lot of people get a chance to play against players as good as Jared.”
The Buckeyes lost two key rebounders after last season in David Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale, who combined to average over seven rebounds per contest.
In his sophomore season at Boston College, Ravenel played in 25 contests and averaged 3.3 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in limited minutes. Though Sullinger returns to Ohio State as one of the best rebounders in the conference, the coaching staff has turned to Ravenel to pick up the slack on the boards from the talent the team lost.
“Anytime you get a guy who has played in the ACC for a couple of years and is seasoned, I think that’s definitely a bonus,” Ohio State assistant coach Jeff Boals said. “He is 6-8 and he has good length. I think he has a knack for the ball rebounding-wise. Jared is returning, but obviously he can’t get every rebound so I think (Evan) will really help us in the rebounding department.”
Though Ravenel hasn’t played in a game for nearly two years, a newfound emphasis on weight training at Ohio State has paid dividends in reshaping his body. In contrast to the way things were done at Boston College, the Buckeyes’ coaching staff has made weight training every bit as important as practicing.
In his new daily routine, Ravenel has lost some weight while adding more strength, helping him become a more agile player in the post.
“The transfer from BC to Ohio State’s weight program was night and day,” he said. “It was completely different. The amount of running, the amount of lifting and the attention to detail we have – it is to a whole other level.
“I feel like I have gotten a lot better. The weight training here has helped my game out a lot. Finishing through contact and even making power moves in the post are things I can do now. I used to be more of a finesse player and I really didn’t want to make much contact, but now that I have this added strength it has given me more confidence to be a power player in the post.”
Ravenel admitted that going through practice last season without having the benefit of playing was tough, but he still viewed himself as an integral part of a team that finished the season with a 34-3 record.
But this season his role has become that much more important as he’ll be turned to for support in the post alongside Sullinger, who turned his back on what would have been a lottery pick in the NBA draft for a chance to advance deeper into the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore.
It’s been quite the transition for Ravenel across the board, whether it was logistically, athletically or socially. When Ohio State opens practice Oct. 14, the culmination of his transformation will be simply playing basketball.
“I just listen to my coaches and do what they tell me,” Ravenel said. “I know that I am supposed to come in and fill the void that Dallas left. I need to come in, defend, rebound and take care of my job.”
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