Antonio Campbell Ready to Lead Ohio Men’s Basketball< < Back to
For the past two years, Ohio basketball fans were accustomed to seeing a big man as the team’s focal point, but with Maurice Ndour now playing for the Dallas Mavericks, he is no longer the team’s go-to guy. However, that does not mean a big man will not be leading the Bobcats this season.
That distinction now goes to forward Antonio Campbell, and that shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. For the past two years while fans marveled at Ndour, they were also talking about how good Campbell would be when he was an upperclassman. Now that he is a junior, those conversations are no longer filled with hypothetical hopes for Campbell. Now they’re filed with expectations, and he realizes that.
With a high standard for him set, it would be easy for Campbell to focus on himself and his own game especially after a season in which he showed flashes of being one of the MAC’s best low post scorers while averaging 10 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while showing.
Campbell stated that his focus among other things this year is “coming to practice every day ready to help these young guys learn.”
During a rebounding drill at the end of the first practice of the season, Campbell was matched up with freshman forward Doug Taylor. With each missed shot, Campbell made sure to beat Taylor and corral the rebound, but with each missed shot, he was also pushing Taylor, encouraging Taylor to keep going and keep working.
Perhaps that’s the most telling sign that the big man known as “Tone” by his coaches and teammates is ready to take the next step and become a leader. Every player wants to get better, but not many make an effort to elevate their teammates’ games.
“He’s clearly invested in helping his teammates get better by encouraging them, by maybe showing them tricks of the trade that maybe he learned along the way from guys like Maurice [Ndour] and other people,” Ohio head coach Saul Phillips says.
It wasn’t always this way, though. When he first got to Athens, Campbell’s focus was just on getting his body ready to play college basketball. The 6-foot-10 forward started his college basketball career at a hefty 280 pounds, and unless you are an NFL lineman, it is extremely difficult to compete in any sport at that weight.
“Dealing with [former head coach] Coach Christian, everything he did was drill-based, and pretty much everything was conditioning,” Campbell explains. “Me coming in at 280 pounds, I obviously had to lose some weight and get in shape.”
So Campbell did what any talented, dedicated athlete would do in that position. He went to work to lose weight, and the physical change was noticeable. By the midway point of his freshman season, Campbell already looked leaner, and today he is in even better shape at 260 pounds. The 20-year-old stated that his main focus this past offseason was his body because he still wants to improve his conditioning.
All of his work has paid off. Campbell says that he now jumps higher, runs faster and moves better off ball screens thanks to dropping that excess weight. A lighter, quicker, more athletic Tony Campbell is certainly something that excites the Bobcats, but the rest of the Mid-American Conference would probably do without it. Campbell scored in double-figures 16 times last season, and that without being the first or even the second scoring option on the team.
With a true point guard in Jaaron Simmons stepping in as the starter at the one, a more consistent offensive attack and more stabilized play can be expected, which bodes well for all Bobcats but Campbell in particular. As a big man, Campbell needs someone that can deliver him the ball in the spots where he’s most comfortable (i.e. the low block), and that is where Simmons comes in.
A gifted passer, Simmons should be able to find Campbell down low plenty this season, and from there, Campbell knows exactly what to do with it. He has an extraordinarily soft touch around the hoop. Campbell has the innate ability to put up a jump hook that just kisses off the glass or off the rim ever so softly and then passes right through the net.
Combine that soft touch with a bevy of shoulder shakes and spin moves, and you have a bona fide terror down low.
“He’s such a physical specimen,” Phillips explains. “He can just do some things that not a lot of other people can do.”
Even if teams manage to slow down Campbell this season, he’ll be able to kick it out to fellow junior forward Kenny Kaminski, who has a silky smooth jump shot and range to go with it. It’s pretty rare that two forwards’ games complement each other; typically it’s a guard and a forward. However, that seems to be the case with Campbell and Kaminski.
With a leaner body and pieces that mesh with his game, it would be easy for Campbell has put the offseason in the rear-view mirror, and all that work went towards accomplishing his single goal for the 2015-16 season.
And after a disappointing 2014-15, more than ten games.