Jack­son says he needs to be bet­ter leader

The Columbus Dispatch - - Sports - By Adam Jardy The Colum­bus Dis­patch [email protected]­patch.com @Adam­jardy

IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s been clear that some­thing has been amiss with the Ohio State men’s bas­ket­ball team since it bolted out to a 12-1 start to the sea­son.

Satur­day af­ter­noon, with his back to a wall made of black, gold and white cin­der blocks, se­nior guard C.J. Jack­son laid the ex­pla­na­tion at his own feet. Fol­low­ing a third straight loss in the span of eight days, and one that be­gan with his first bench­ing in more than a year, the Buck­eyes cap­tain said the team’s re­cent woes stem from a lack of lead­er­ship.

And ac­cord­ing to Jack­son, it starts with him.

“It starts in prac­tice, not tak­ing days off whether we’re in the weight room or film, just be­ing fo­cused for our time when­ever we’re at the gym,” he said. “We’re not ever there long, so we have to re­ally put in the time so when gameday comes it’s sec­ond na­ture, and that’s not been the case. I’ve not been prac­tic­ing hard enough and I can’t re­ally speak for any­one else, but that’s kind of led to our per­for­mance in the game, and mine es­pe­cially.”

Each loss has been dif­fer­ent, but they are con­nected. Against No. 8 Michi­gan State, the Buck­eyes were neck-and-neck with the Spar­tans un­til the fi­nal three min­utes. Four days later at Rut­gers, they took their first true ugly loss in the Chris Holtmann era with a three-point de­feat to a team that had beaten just one ranked Big Ten team dur­ing its five years in the con­fer­ence. Against Iowa, Ohio State turned the ball over 21 times in a game in which Holtmann said he didn’t do a good enough job of pre­par­ing his play­ers to make smarter de­ci­sions.

Asked where the team’s ef­fort and en­ergy lev­els have been lately, Jack­son said, “Prob­a­bly not enough where we need it to be, and that starts with me. I haven’t been play­ing hard enough, smart enough, (I’m) foul­ing too much per­son­ally and just not giv­ing enough ef­fort and di­rect­ing the younger guys and be­ing that leader they can de­pend on.”

Holtmann cau­tioned against Jack­son putting too much on his own shoul­ders. The lead­er­ship for this group has al­ways been a col­lec­tive need, he said, not­ing that step­ping into such roles is not some­thing that sev­eral play­ers are nec­es­sar­ily com­fort­able with. There’s not a Jae’sean Tate on this team, a player to whom play­ers nat­u­rally grav­i­tate.

“C.J.’S a great kid,” Holtmann said. “He’s a tremen­dous kid. He doesn’t need to put all that on him. Other guys need to lead, but he knows why he came off the bench. I had that con­ver­sa­tion with him, but I’ll keep that be­tween us.”

Life gets no eas­ier for the Buck­eyes as the sea­son re­sumes Fri­day with a home game against Mary­land. At No. 21 na­tion­ally, the Ter­rap­ins are the low­est-ranked team ac­cord­ing to Ken­pom. com among the next four op­po­nents, a stretch that con­cludes at un­de­feated Michi­gan on Jan. 29.

They are sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges, but each could pro­vide op­por­tu­nity for play­ers like Jack­son to re­write the tra­jec­tory of the sea­son. Down­beat Satur­day, Jack­son said he’s ca­pa­ble of putting this team on his shoul­ders — with a lit­tle help.

“Yeah, I def­i­nitely think so,” he said. “If not, we’re go­ing to keep los­ing. Some­thing’s got to change.”

[TYLER SCHANK/DIS­PATCH]

Ohio State cap­tain C.J. Jack­son, mak­ing a steal against Michi­gan State on Jan. 5, said he needs to set a bet­ter ex­am­ple for the team, in­clud­ing work­ing harder in prac­tice.

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