Position Breakdown: Forwards

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Ohio’s backcourt has a large task, yes, but the frontcourt has challenges of its own. Defensive rebounding is perhaps the Bobcats’ biggest weak point, finishing ninth in the Mid-American Conference last season in defensive rebounds. (The ‘Cats were outrebounded by 33 in their Sweet Sixteen loss to North Carolina. Ouch.)

Ohio’s schedule features St. Bonaventure, who ranked 25th in the country in rebound margin last season. Oklahoma landed in the top 100. The Bobcats, on the other hand, ended the season 225th of 338 teams in rebound margin. Ohio’s rebound average dropped last season by two from 2010-2011.

“There’s no particular thing you can do to become a better rebounding team,” said head coach Jim Christian. “It’s learning how to do it. It’s being willing to do it and understanding the importance of it.

But rebounding is not the only task. Last season brought improvement on the offensive end from guys like Ivo Baltic and Reggie Keely, but the buckets were hardly flowing from the men of the paint. No forwards averaged double-digit points.

The Bobcats are undersized in the paint. That’s something that could be hard to fix. Putting on pounds isn’t effective without a parallel increase in vertical leap. None of the ‘Cats are getting taller any time soon. What can be improved is the skills to counteract such deficiencies: boxing out, jumpshooting, etc.

Again, as with the guards, the Bobcats bring everyone back to the frontcourt, save Kenny Belton and Ethan Jacobs. Questions loom large as to how the forwards will perform against an even tougher schedule than years past.

Ivo Baltic, Senior, 6’9”

When Ohio exited the NCAA Tournament at the conclusion of last season, Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis’s Twitter-driven love affair with Ivo Baltic came to an end. While it may take tournament-esque performances from Baltic to recapture national attention, he remains the apple of Bobcat fans’ eyes.

One element of Baltic’s game fans saw improve before those very eyes as the season went on was his jumpshot, in particular the fade-away and his drive to the basket. Baltic has gotten both so good that it keeps defenders on their toes when he puts his back to the basket. A quick spin puts him in position to do either and both are lethal.

The problem with Baltic’s game is that he’s very selfless, which is a theme amongst many of Ohio’s players. He took fewer than eight shots per game last season, but showed his ability to explode when given the opportunity. He dropped 22 points on tournament regular Northern Iowa.

Baltic can hurt players on offense but has trouble defending taller guys and also rebounding. He led the Bobcats last season with just five rebounds per game – perhaps more evident of the bigger problem with the team. Baltic is the tallest player on Ohio’s roster and has great leaping ability. Positioning and a good deal of bad luck was the problem with his rebounding game, but is certainly a fixable issue.

Reggie Keely, Senior, 6’9”

Keely underwent a transformation in his game last season, improving as the team’s third leading scorer and second leading rebounder. Keely had previously been known solely for a dunk or a layup on occasion, but when he stepped out to 10 or 12 feet to shoot jumpers fans got nervous – that is until they saw he was making them and making them at a high percentage.

Yet, Keely’s improvement in no way ends there. He along with the rest of the frontcourt can stand to add a few more rebounds to the effort. It’s safe to say his defense is less than stellar. Keely struggles to defend bigger players. As Ohio’s biggest player, one can see how this could cause problems. Keely and Baltic tied for the most fouls per game on the team with 2.7 each. When Keely and/or Baltic gets in foul trouble, that puts the Bobcats in difficult situations in which a much shorter T.J. Hall, six feet five inches, has to step up into the power forward role.

It’s important for Keely to continue developing as an offensive threat as he did last season, but also to shore up his defensive effort. If Keely can tighten up the defense and stay out of foul trouble, he can be of even more benefit to the Bobcats this season.

Jon Smith, Redshirt Junior, 6’6”

Smith started all but one game last season and perhaps the most interesting thing to watch in the post this season is if the lineup stays as it is. Keely played extremely well off the bench last season and clearly outperformed Smith on a sheer production level, but if Christian follows an if-it-ain’t-broke strategy, Smith would hold onto his starting role.

Starting or not, Smith could stand to improve his game all around. Keely made his dramatic jump between his sophomore and junior seasons and Smith has the opportunity to do the same this season. He doesn’t have much offensive game to speak of and his jumpshot is practically nonexistent. Smith averaged just under four points per game. He needs to be stronger and more confident with the ball in his hands to add another dimension to Ohio’s offense. The more players on the floor who are threats to score, the better for the Bobcats.

Defensively, Smith is good playing away from the ball, blocking shots often on help-side. Smith had 46 blocks on the season, but can always improve. He finished fifth in the MAC in blocks per game last season. A goal for Smith to improve would be to finish in the top three in blocked shots at season’s end.

T.J. Hall, Junior, 6’5”

Hall is another of Ohio’s ultimate role players much like Ricardo Johnson. He comes in with the threat to score a few points as shown in the MAC Tournament last season in which he averaged eight points per game.

He brings a unique defensive ability as well, able to sit down and defend the guards as well as much bigger players in the post. Hall is another of Ohio’s “bench mob” that has potential to come in at any point and have a large impact on the game.

Kadeem Green, Redshirt Sophomore, 6’8”

Green, another of Ohio’s transfers, comes from Missouri with a big body and a lot of potential. Though he won’t play this season due to NCAA transfer rules, Green and his seven feet and one inch of wingspan will be important for the ‘Cats in seasons to come.

Treg Setty, Sophomore, 6’9”

A transfer from Southern Illinois, Setty joins Green in a suit on the sidelines this season, but will be key in the next few years. Both Baltic and Keely graduate after this year, so Setty, Green and Smith – and perhaps a few recruits – will make up Ohio’s post game next season.