Buckeyes Need More of Whatever Got into Ravenel
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was something different about Evan Ravenel on Wednesday night.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Ohio State’s lone senior had an unusual demeanor when he took the court against Savannah State at Value City Arena. It was palpable from the opening tip.
He looked hungry, maybe even angry. He stalked the court with a scowl on his face, only breaking to smile after diving on the floor for a loose ball in the first half of a 40-point blowout.
He battled on the boards and attacked the basket. He made his presence felt in the paint against Savannah State big men Rashad Hassan and Jyles Smith, helping the Buckeyes to more than double their opponent on the glass during an 85-45 victory in Columbus.
“If I play with energy, I can get the output like I had today,” said Ravenel, who transferred to Ohio State from Boston College three years ago.
“It’s not always going to be perfect, but if I play hard, and play with energy, good things happen.”
Ravenel only knows that because when he doesn’t play that way – when he lacks energy or doesn’t bring his lunch pale to the arena – good things typically don’t happen for him. At least not at this level.
Despite starting the game, Ravenel played only nine minutes in Ohio State’s 34-point win over Long Beach State this past Saturday. He scored two points and grabbed one rebound while committing four personal fouls.
Afterward, he received a phone call from his old roommate, now a rookie with the Boston Celtics. After talking with Jared Sullinger, who controlled the paint for two years in Columbus, Ravenel knew something had to change. He knew what he needed to do.
“I sat down with Coach Matta and the other coaches and talked about my performance before the game,” Ravenel admitted.
“I told them what I wanted and they told me what I needed to do to make this happen. It’s playing hard. I felt the energy today. If I play hard and play with energy, good things happen.”
With his newfound approach to the game, Ravenel snagged five rebounds in his first five minutes on the floor Wednesday night. He scored 11 points, one shy of his career-high with the Buckeyes, and grabbed nine rebounds – the most ever for Ravenel in a scarlet and gray uniform.
“In previous games, I think my focus was on what I wanted for myself and my own personal goals,” Ravenel said in a moment of true humility.
“With a team like this, it's selfish of me to want to do that. And thinking about myself, I wasn't playing my best basketball. And when I think about the team instead of thinking about myself, this is the outcome I get and I'm going to continue to do that for the rest of the year.”
Whether he expected to replace Sullinger as the focal point of the offense, or just wanted to be more involved at that end of the court, Ravenel stopped doing the little things this team needs.
Even he said before the season the key for all three of Ohio State’s big men was not trying to replace Sullinger, because that’s not realistic. None of them are going to suddenly become two-time All-Americans, but this OSU team doesn’t need that.
While Ravenel’s fancy little hook shot was a nice touch on Wednesday night, Matta will gladly take the two charges he drew at the defensive end over anything Ravenel can give them at the other end of the floor.
“I have not been a shot-blocker since I came to college. One thing my coaches told me was that I am good at being able to see the defense,” Ravenel said.
“I can take charges pretty well – it’s one thing I can do to my help team out. It’s a momentum-builder for our team when we go on the offensive end.”
It can also get the opposing team’s big man in foul trouble, which turned out to be the case on Wednesday night. Savannah State center Jyles Smith fouled out of the game with six points and three rebounds in 21 minutes. He came in averaging over six rebounds a night, but Ohio State controlled the boards at both ends of the floor.
They can’t expect Ravenel to grab five offensive rebounds every night, like he did in that game on Wednesday, but what they can expect – what they absolutely need from their senior big man – is the kind of energy and enthusiasm for the game of basketball that suddenly got into him against Savannah State.
“Playing hard and playing with energy, that's what I have to do,” Ravenel added.
“It's not go shoot a thousand shots, it's not do a million ball-handling drills. If I play hard and play with energy, good things happen.”
For him, and for this basketball team.
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