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Ohio Men’s Basketball: Stepping Up When It Counts

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With one of the youngest teams in school history, starting forward Treg Setty is the lone senior on the Ohio Bobcats roster. That puts the Green and White in a fascinating position in which many of its juniors must step into leadership roles.

“We have a very small amount of experience on this team,” second year head coach Saul Phillips said. “Anyone that can add to that collective knowledge that we have, speak up.”

Among that four-man junior class, forwards Kenny Kaminski and Antonio Campbell rose to the occasion at the beginning of the season to mentor some of the new freshmen at their respective positions. Kaminski’s guidance shines through the play of true freshman Gavin Block, a versatile swingman that quickly found his way into the rotation. This season, Block is averaging 15 minutes per game, giving Ohio a boost off the bench with nearly five points per contest. Shooting 38 percent from behind the arc, Block credits much of his success to Kaminski.

“He is always telling me to be ready to shoot,” Block said. “He is a shooter, he has a shooter’s mentality and that is something I am trying to get here. He has taught me to be confident and to play hard.”

When he is not leading the Bobcats in both scoring and rebounding, Campbell shares his advice with another fellow newcomer, Doug Taylor. Still recovering from a high-school knee injury, Taylor appeared in 13 of Ohio’s first 16 games. He provides crucial complimentary minutes down low for Campbell and junior Wadly Mompremiere. In practice however, he is constantly evolving from Campbell’s experience.

“He is like a big brother to me,” Taylor said. “He has taught me some post moves and how to use my body, because coming in I was just an awkward kind of guy. Since I have been here, I have been able to use Tony as an example.”

These tight-knit relationships between players continue outside of the gym as well. From the campus dining halls to their trip to the Virgin Islands, the age gap has no affect on what it means to be teammates off the court.

“My dream as a little kid was to play on the big stage like Kenny did at Michigan State,” Block said. “We have had a couple of personal instances where we have come a lot closer, but he is one of my best friends and I am so thankful to be on a team with him.”

Through the first half of the Bobcat’s 2015-16 campaign, Phillips utilized the depth of his bench. 11 players contribute four minutes or more to each game, including Block and Taylor. With the early direction from those in the starting lineup, Phillips is very confident that when the time comes for his players to pass the torch, his freshmen class will be ready to go.

“This is the beginning of something that is going to become a staple in our program, where you see upperclassmen helping freshmen along,” Phillips said. “I do not think that there will be a group any better at mentoring younger players than these freshmen in three years. They will be spectacular at it.”