Ohio State women's basketball: McGuff, players begin to build bond

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Kevin McGuff arrived at his new job as the Ohio State women’s basketball coach three months ago as something of a stranger to the 12 returning players.

“I think he recruited a couple of us,” sophomore guard Ameryst Alston said. “But most of us didn’t know him or the other new (assistant) coaches.”

McGuff immediately set about meeting the players to ease whatever anxiety any of them had with the change that followed the dismissal of former coach Jim Foster.

Things clicked quickly.

“I don’t think it was ever awkward at all,” Alston said. “They’re all really good people on the court and off. They were all very welcoming.”

As luck would have it, an NCAA rule change allowed McGuff and his staff to conduct individual and group workouts with players enrolled for the summer semester.

“I wouldn’t call it dramatic because it’s only two hours a week,” McGuff said. “But I think it’s really, really good in this specific instance because being a new coach with a new team it really jump-starts the process of me getting to know them as basketball players on the court.”

The rule allows each player to work with coaches for two hours a week. Alston said the workouts have familiarized the players with McGuff’s style of play and his demeanor.

“He likes to play at a fast tempo,” she said. “So I think we’re going to play faster this year. And he’s definitely going to get the best out of us. He’s working us really, really hard so that he can do that.”

McGuff began stating his preference for up-tempo basketball in the news conference announcing his hiring on April 16. That change is coming, he said, but possibly not as soon as the upcoming season.

“I think right now that’s the bigger picture,” McGuff said. “In the short term it’s finding the best way to coach this team and to help this team be successful.”

He and new staff members Joy Cheek and Mark Mitchell along with holdover Patrick Klein are out recruiting right now. None of their targets are for the upcoming season.

“No, this is our squad,” McGuff said. “We could have added somebody to help in the short run. But in the long run, there wasn’t anybody that would help us do what we ultimately want to do.”

Foster signed no one last fall, missing on four guards who chose other schools.

“We have a lot of scholarships,” McGuff said. “We’ll have a lot for two years here now. We have seven this year and four next year. So we have 11 people that we can potentially add in two years.

“That’s a lot of people. But it’s also exciting because I really, really like the kids we have now. I enjoy working with them and watching them come together as a team. But I’m also excited about the opportunity to use these scholarships wisely.”

It also isn’t news to the current Buckeyes.

“He’s talked to us about that,” Alston said. “We’re all excited. This is not a new coaching staff in my eyes anymore. They came in and we all got together quickly. It just doesn’t feel new anymore at all.”

jmassie@dispatch.com

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