The Ohio State men’s basketball team is hard at work in its second week of preseason practice. The Buckeyes will hold their first exhibition Sun., Nov. 6, against Findlay. They open the season Nov. 20 against Chicago State.
On the team’s photo day Oct. 13, we had a chance to speak with senior center Terence Dials. The 6-9 Dials is one of five returning starters for coach Thad Matta’s Buckeyes. He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors a year ago, averaging 15.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Dials, back for his third year as a starter and fifth season overall (he missed most of 2002-03 with a back injury), has heard all the talk about Matta’s incoming class of recruits for next year.
“I know it’s out there,” Dials said. “I have friends in the athletic office. They tell me how everyone is buying tickets now and they think they’ll be able to be on the list for next year. I joke about that. But it is the number one recruiting class.
“They are getting all of the media and respect they deserve. But right now we’re not thinking about those guys. They’re nice guys, but I’m thinking about the team I’m going into battle with every night and the guys we have on the floor right now.”
Dials is among four seniors – the others being Je’Kel Foster, J.J. Sullinger and Matt Sylvester – on the squad. Matta has named all four of the seniors as co-captains.
“I think that is a good thing,” said Dials, who flew solo as the captain last year. “They have all shown leadership on and off the floor. My role is to go out and show leadership and lead on the floor. I know the other guys will be doing the same. We just need to lead by example with the way we play.”
Dials was asked if last year’s upset of then-No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Illinois helped put the Buckeyes back on the college basketball map.
“I think it did a little justice to this program,” he said. “I think it also put a little faith in Coach Matta’s system. Without him, obviously, we wouldn’t have been able to get that win. We believe more in his system as a result and we bought into it the whole off-season. We know this preseason is important for us to have a great season.”
Dials talked about what he wants to accomplish as a senior.
“As always, our goals are to be Big Ten champions, win 20 games and get to the NCAA Tournament,” he said. “Realistically, all of that is possible. But we need to get better every day. We’re not there yet, but with the hard work we’re going to put in I think we can be right there.”
The Buckeyes opened preseason camp with just 10 scholarship players, meaning there will be few breaks during practice.
“I told somebody earlier this is going to be a grind,” Dials said. “We will have guys out here fighting for positions. Playing time is going to be on the line every day in practice. There’s no breaks and no hiding. You can’t get a blow.
“It will be five-on-five every day. It will be interesting to see how Coach handles the lineup.”