In the following weeks, The Post will analyze Ohio men’s basketball roster and their potential impact in 2016-17.
This week, The Post will look at wing Mike Laster and his defensive toughness.
Laster is the epitome of toughness.
Height/Weight: 6-foot-5/199 pounds
High school: Class Technical
Notable: Was one of Ohio’s best defenders last year, often coming off the bench to provide a spark.
Last year’s statline: 33 games played, nine minutes per game, two points per game, one rebound per game, 44 percent shooting from the field.
After starting 17 games his freshman year, he didn’t start once his sophomore year.
Laster’s numbers across the statsheet took a slight dip. His confidence and attitude, however, didn’t.
“His body control has gotten much better. He kinda used to look like a deer on ice sometimes, now he’s much more fluid,” Ohio coach Saul Phillips said. “Mike is an extremely intelligent kid. He’s applying what he’s learned and getting better every day. He’s fun to coach because of that. If you coach good listeners, you generally going to be in a good mood as a coach.”
When Phillips occasionally brags about the Bobcats’ “unselfishness”, he’s not just talking about Ohio’s ability to pass the basketball and get multiple players involved in its game plan.
Phillips is referencing players like Laster — a player who has put his own ego and pride aside for the common good.
“I enjoy coming off the bench, because I know it can be a good spark for my team,” Laster said last year. “I know I can immediately make an impact.”
As preseason practices continue, it's difficult to piece together where each player will be. Phillips has kept his lineups in his own head.
Phillips said Jordan Dartis is Ohio’s second-best point guard after Jaaron Simmons. Behind Dartis, Khari Harley is Ohio’s third-string point guard with freshman Rodney Culver at the fourth spot, per Phillips.
But even Laster has proven he’s competent bringing the ball upcourt and working the top-two spots during preseason practices.
It’s highly unlikely Phillips will lean on Laster as the Bobcats’ point man when Nov. 5 rolls around, but there is plenty of chances for Laster to make an impact on a “defensive lineup”, something he was used for last year.
Phillips utilized Laster last season to lockdown Mid-American Conference opponent’s best scorers, and it worked.
Laster held Western Michigan’s Thomas Wilder, who averaged 18 points per game, to tough mid-range pull-ups and contested layups.
Laster will use his defensive niche to wedge out some minutes as a junior, even if there’s no clear-cut picture of where he’ll be in the Bobcats’ rotation yet.
“We’ve got a group that is very cohesive, we’ve got a group that genuinely likes each other, and a group that is willing to lay it out there for the guy next to them,” Phillips said. “Everybody talks about that. I think it’s pretty visible with this group.”