Hours after their former coach accepted a new job, several Bobcats confirmed that they will continue to call The Convo their home.
Most of the Ohio men’s basketball team met at Ping Center for a pick-up game Thursday night, and no one conveyed any intentions to transfer after learning that John Groce will be coaching at Illinois next season.
“‘I’m good. I’m staying here,” said junior guard Walter Offutt, who first played for Groce at Ohio State and followed the coach to Athens. “I’ve got to be a leader on this team. Being the older one, I’m the only one to lead the team right now. That’s what I’ve got to do: stick it out and pray to God.”
The student-athletes said they have a great deal of respect for their former coach, which was evident throughout the season from their buying into Groce’s mentality of defensive toughness on the court. In interviews, they often began sentences with, “Coach always talks about …” to indicate their attentiveness to the game plan.
That respect also means accepting Groce’s decisions, even when that proves difficult.
“He’s got to do at the end of the day what’s best for him, and we’re all proud of him,” said junior forward Ivo Baltic, one of four players on the team with a program-record three NCAA Tournament wins under Groce’s leadership.
Although the team appears to be sticking together, some changes are inevitable.
The team likely will have a new head coach within the next two weeks. That coach might already be on staff, such as assistant coach Dustin Ford, or it could be someone not quite as familiar with the program.
“I just want somebody who can do a great job of continuing to build a program,” Baltic said. “I don’t really care who it is as long as they keep doing that.”
Another question mark for the team is the status of recruits and transfer students. Freshman Kadeem Green recently arrived in Athens from Missouri and planned to join the team for the 2012 –13 season. The team officially announced Green’s addition to the roster the day before Groce began discussions with Illinois officials.
“I’m going to try my best to stick it out for Kadeem and tell him what’s going on because, obviously, he just got here,” Offutt said. “He’s new to the program. He doesn’t really know a lot of people. It’s imperative that we let him know what’s going on and really keep him together.”
According to Tricia Turley Brandenburg, OU’s senior associate athletics director for compliance and student services, a student-athlete is considered part of the team once he enrolls and arrives on campus. That means Green would have to sit out a full year if he decides to leave Ohio.
“It’s all up in the air right now; (Green) doesn’t know what he’s going to do,” Baltic said. “I’m pretty sure he’ll stay, but he’s got to do what makes him happy.”
— Brandon Kors contributed to this report