February 22, 2024

Page 1

Basketball 2024 Edition

Cohesion in The Convo

In 2023, March Madness reached new heights in Women’s College Basketball. With 9.9 million viewers tuning in to watch Caitlin Clark take on Angel Reese, the Women’s National Championship was the most viewed college basketball game ever on ESPN. College basketball is on its way to being the first sport to break through to mainstream popularity with both men’s and women’s coverage.

In other words, college basketball, especially now that March is approaching, has never been more important.

A mid-major program like Ohio has had more than its fair share of postseason success in the last 15 years. Since 2010, Ohio has won 10 tournament games, six on the women’s side and four for the men’s team.

Ohio hasn’t made it back to the “big dance” since 2021, but it has maintained

one of the most consistent and competitive programs in the MAC. With a plethora of young playmakers on both men’s and women’s teams, there is plenty of optimism toward the remainder of the 2023-24 season and for many seasons to come.

In this issue, you’ll find the stories of those young players – both men and women alike.

In terms of success, Ohio has one of the best overall basketball programs at the mid-major level.

That cohesion between the men’s and women’s teams at Ohio is a big reason why we maintain the yearly tradition of putting this issue together. In sports, it is often uncommon to see both men and women share the spotlight for a common game, and that is what makes basketball a beautiful sport.

Each basketball program has its own

history, its own stories to tell and its own goals to achieve, but at the end of the day, Ohio’s basketball players will always be Bobcats. No matter how each season ends for Ohio, the futures of the two programs are brighter than ever before.

*DISCLAIMER: Data mentioned in the following stories reflects statistics finalized prior to Tuesday night’s games unless otherwise indicated. Slight adjustments due to games played Tuesday or Wednesday evening may impact current standings.


Stolen car recovered, large trash fire


Gotcha now

A breaking-and-entering complaint in Torch was reported to the Athens County Sheriff’s Office.

The caller told deputies that someone broke into the garage and vacant trailer on the property and stole multiple items.

Items that were left behind by the suspect were collected and sent to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation for DNA testing.

I was hungryyy

A theft occurred at Wray House, according to the Ohio University Police Department.

OUPD took a report of a stolen DoorDash order.

Need to pay them somehow

A caller reported to the Sheriff’s Office that student loans from 2015-18 were being applied for using the caller’s information. As of Friday, no further details have been released.

Vroom vroom

The Ohio University Police Department reported a theft.

OUPD took a report of a recovered stolen vehicle.

Something smells burnt ... and stinky

A large trash fire on Knollwood Court was reported to the Athens County Sheriff’s Office.

Once deputies arrived, they saw a large fire with many items being burnt. A report was taken and forwarded to the Sheriff’s Office environmental deputy for further investigation.

Gam sweet Gam

An offense of destruction of property at Gamertsfelder Hall was reported to the Ohio University Police Department.

OUPD took a report of a damaged exit sign.

A snowy mystery

Suspicious activity on High Street in Glouster was reported to the Athens County Sheriff’s Office.

Upon arrival, the caller showed deputies footprints in the snow and told officers that the prints were not their own or did not belong to anyone in their family.

Deputies patrolled the area but did not come into contact with anyone.

Water Broke

Destruction of property occurred at James Hall, according to the Ohio University Police Department.


Week of February 22nd - March 1st

Social Engagement & Student Org Events

Fri. & Sat , February 23 -24

East End Game Nights

Video+Board Games

Snacks available

Friday 7:00 - 10:00 pm

Saturday 8:00 - 11:00 pm

Jefferson Hall, 1st floor

Saturday, February 24


10th annual Dance Marathon a fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities 11:00 am - 11:00 pm

danging, games, FREE food, FREE prizes, RAFFLES

Ping Center

Thursday, February 29

Allez, Allez...!: Spanish Civil War Exile Music and Q&A

7:00-8:30 pm

Glidden Recital Hall

Kaiwa Time

Practice Speaking Japanese w/learners & native speakers

7:00 - 8:00 pm

Gordy 209

Friday, March 1

Friday’s LIVE Season 52 E03 hosted by Kaitlyn Kilmer & Lily Biggs

8:00 pm

Studio C (RTV 515)

OUPD took a report on the damage done to a water fountain.

Better late than never

A complainant told Athens County Sheriff’s Office deputies about a vehicle wreck that happened two months prior. Deputies filed a report.

Needed some fresh air

A well-being check at Strouds Run State Park was conducted by the Athens County Sheriff’s Office.

Upon arrival, deputies did not come into contact with anyone in the area, so they resumed patrol.

Later, the individual the deputies were looking for, called the office and told deputies that they were OK.

Oldest trick in the book

Destruction of property in Dougan House was reported to the Ohio University Police Department.

OUPD took a report on a covered smoke detector.

Even stinkier

A rekindled fire on Knollwood Court in Athens was reported to the Athens County

Sorority & Fraternity Life

Monday, February 26

OHIO Greeks 101

New Member Workshops

5:00 pm

Morton 219

Sophomore Housing Exemption Meeting

7:00 pm

Schoon 145

Thursday, February 29

OHIO Greeks 101

New Member Workshops

3:00 pm

Baker 230

* To have your event included on this calendar make sure it is registered on Bobcat Connect!

Sheriff’s Office.

Because there was a previous report on this fire, an investigation was opened Monday.

Catch me if you can

A business on North Plains Road reported a bad check to the Athens County Sheriff’s Office. A report was taken and as of Tuesday, an investigation is pending.


SCAN for more events OPEN MIC NIGHT FRIDAYS The Front Room Baker Center 6:00 - 8:00 pm WATCH & ENJOY
An Ohio University Police Department patrol car sits in front of Baker Center in Athens, Ohio, Nov. 7, 2023. (JACK TATHAM | FOR THE POST)

Bengisu Alper’s long college career ending happily

In less than 30 days, the collegiate basketball career of Bengisu Alper will come to an end. Whether the Bobcats make the run to the MAC tournament championship, or they’re eliminated from contention, Alper will be playing her last college basketball games in the near future.

Basketball has been a lifelong journey that has taken her not only all over the country, but the world as well. Alper, born in Istanbul, Turkey, to a father who played professional basketball, was introduced to the game very early in her life.

Alper played several teams while in Turkey, often winning some form of hardware with them. She was named the Regional Basketball MVP for the 2016-17 season and took her team to a fourth-place finish at the European Championship Division B in 2018.

She appeared in many other tournaments while playing in Turkey before coming to the U.S. to play college basketball.

After a brief start to her collegiate playing career in Maine, Alper transferred to play for Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colorado, for the 2020-21 season. Her career as a Ram would last three years, playing in two seasons due to the transfer rules at the time.

After the 2021-22 season, she would leave Colorado State for Northwestern State, a Southland school located in the small town of Natchitoches, Louisiana, right outside of


Alper would play one season for Northwestern State, seeing her minutes per game double as a Lady Demon in what was her most productive season of college basketball yet. Her final season of college basketball has brought her here to Athens, a place that she says doesn’t compare to Fort Collins or Natchitoches.

“I just feel like, from a personal perspective, I am so much happier here,” said Alper. “I have no drama with my teammates. We all love each other on the court and off the court. (We) support each other and hang out with each other.”

Her coaches played a big part in her recruitment, especially when she was back home in Turkey and wasn’t able to visit the campus. The relationship she has with the coaches has grown ever since.

“I love my coaches,” Alper said. “With a couple of my assistant coaches, we don’t really have a big age gap so we’re more like friends. So that helps a lot.”

Confidence and mood matter so much in sports, and it is clear that Bengisu is the happiest yet in her college career based on her play this season. Alper is averaging a career-high in points, assists and steals this season with Ohio while starting in 19 of 22 games she has played in.

While her numbers are at all-time highs for her college days, the impact she provides on the floor for Ohio goes largely unnoticed by the box scores.

Alper is a fearless defensive player, often guarding some

of the bigger players on the opposing team and stepping in harm’s way to draw charges.

According to Alper, her role coming out of Turkey revolved around scoring and being the main option for her teams.

“Coming from Turkey, I was the best player, the best scorer, all of that,” said Alper. “Coming here, I have realized there's a lot of ‘best players’ around me. So I had to find a role (and) accept the fact that I might not be the best scorer (some nights).”

She talked about how she realized that fact and how she further adapted her game to fit into winning basketball.

“I had to find a role and the role kind of started with defense,” Alper said. “I was like, ‘OK, I can be the best defender on the team,’ so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

That role has Alper playing well during her senior season, bringing her defensive presence to every possession every time she's on the court. Her role might not produce gaudy box scores or huge numbers, but her impact tends to be one of the highest on the team, game in and game out.

Alper’s basketball journey has been unfolding since she was a child back in Istanbul, and for the senior, this chapter of her ending inspires emotion.

“I've been playing basketball since I was 9, so I’m just really emotional,” said Alper. “I’m taking it day by day, not taking any day for granted.”

However emotional Alper is about her playing her last few games, the senior guard could not be happier that this chapter of her basketball journey will be ending in Athens, playing for Ohio.

“I’m so glad that it’s ending in Ohio because I had a great year personally,” said Alper. “I’m really happy here, and I wouldn’t want anywhere else but Ohio to end my career.”

4 / FEBRUARY 22, 2024
@CHARLIEFADEL CF111322@OHIO.EDU  marks YOUR spot $65 OFF CAMPUS PARKING per month Elliot Street • Athens CALL 740-594-9098 SCAN TO EMAIL To qualify for the upcoming room selection, you must complete the housing contract and submit the $200 housing deposit by 4 p.m. on February 28th You can now find the contract on your Housing Self-Service page (ohio.edu/myhousing) to complete! SEL ECTING ROOMS Creating Memories Riverpark Sowle Hall WrayHouse Convocation Center Bromley Hall AdamsHall BryanHall Returning Student Room Selection 2024-25

Chelsea Welch’s basketball journey prepares her for Ohio

Ohio’s Women’s Basketball Assistant Coach Chelsea Welch grew up with basketball. As she progressed from youth basketball to the Amateur Athletic Union, or AAU, her dad coached her all the way.

While in high school, Welch played basketball outside of Dayton at Fairmont High School in Kettering. Her time at Kettering was fruitful, winning a state championship her senior year.

Her impressive high school career earned her a scholarship to Pitt to continue her basketball career. Her time at Pitt was cut short, as she spent two years on the west side of Pennsylvania before transferring to Wright State, a college right outside of the Dayton area where she grew up.

“At Pitt, honestly, I was recruited as a guard,” said Welch. “A lot of times I was playing out of position. I just wasn’t happy in that realm.”

Switching schools did wonders for Welch, as she felt it was a place she was more in line with.

At Wright State, Welch flourished in a system under Head Coach Katrina Merriweather that benefited her and her skillset much better.

Her Wright State career was illustrious, earning her a spot on the Horizon League’s first-team from 2016-18, as well as Horizon League Player of the Year in 2018.

While a Raider, Welch took on a key leadership role that prepared her for a career after she was done playing.

“We didn’t necessarily have a captain-specific role with an actual title, but (I was) kind of being in that leadership role,” said Welch. “I was like an extension of my coach on the court … I could kind of see the court in one way and then Katrina would kind of help me see it in other ways.”

At Wright State, Welch realized coaching could be in her future, especially after tak-

ing on the role as one of the team’s biggest leaders.

“I was always wanting to try different plays and always coming to the timeouts and being like ‘Let’s try this instead,’” said Welch. “My love for the game kind of inspired me to want to give back and teach girls and teach players the game and coach, so it definitely piqued my interest once I started taking that leadership role.”

After her career at Wright State ended, Welch jumped into professional basketball, traveling across the world to compete in Portugal. Welch was named Import Player of the Year during her first year playing abroad and led her conference in scoring.

Beyond her success on the court overseas, it was in Portugal that Welch learned and used the communication skills that are so crucial when coaching.

what everyone knew. It was almost like the universal language. It just kind of showed that communication is even more important when you’re playing with people who don't speak the same language as you.”

Those skills are key in all aspects of coaching, especially when recruiting high school students to come to play college basketball. Welch is constantly going on the road to scout prospects, and the skills she had learned from Portugal and Wright State help out immensely.

“What makes a good recruiter is the communication piece,” Welch said. “You have to be able to reach out to players, prospects, transfers, whoever you're recruiting and kind of build a relationship with them off the court. It's really important to show that like you're not just being recruited … we’re building relationships and bonds.”

“It showed me communication,” Welch said. “There were language barriers here and there, but I loved the fact that basketball is @CHARLIEFADEL CF111322@OHIO.EDU

Ohio women’s basketball assistant coach, Chelsea Welch, stands on the sidelines during a game against Ball State at The Convo, Feb. 17, 2024 in Athens. (ABBIE KINNEY

From opponents to great friends

How a 1-on-1 matchup spawns friendship

Jaylin Hunter and Shereef Mitchell have had many different relationships during their basketball careers. The two have shared a court as opponents in high school, a court as teammates in the Amateur Athletic Association, or AAU, and they’ve had a distanced relationship while playing basketball at other schools. Now, during their final season of college basketball, they’ve found each other again, setting the stage to be teammates one last time before hanging up the shoes for good.

Hunter, a native of Manchester, Connecticut, played basketball at Omaha Creighton Prep for his junior and senior years of high school, a school that just so happened to be a rival of Omaha Burke, the school that Mitchell called home.

From the first time the two stepped on the court in Omaha, they noticed the presence of the other. Each a fierce competitor, Hunter and Mitchell were the perfect rival for the other.

“He (Mitchell) cooked me real bad in a summer league game one time,” Hunter said. “ He’s had my respect since then because that competitiveness isn’t something that you see every day.”

The first time they met, the two weren’t friends — just respected opponents. That was until they found one another again, playing on the same AAU basketball team.

Not only were they on the same team, but they were the leaders of the team, forcing a bond that has lasted much longer than their time as precollegiate teammates.

“Me and him (Hunter) were always the one and two (on our AAU team),” Mitchell said. “It was always us try-

ing to run the team so me and him were always on the same page.”

Following a successful run as AAU teammates, Hunter and Mitchell split again.

Mitchell went off to a storied basketball program at Creighton, while Hunter found himself at Old Dominion.

After an impressive three-year run at Old Dominion, Hunter transferred to Ohio ahead of the 2022-23 basketball season, where he immediately stepped into the role of one of Ohio’s top scorers.

Hunter became acclimated with the team, becoming a respected leader among them. Mitchell, on the other hand, was looking for a new beginning after a four-year career at Creighton, where he averaged 11.8 minutes per game.

During their separate collegiate careers, Mitchell and Hunter never lost touch. The two would often share their experiences over the phone or via social media. When Hunter learned Mitchell entered the transfer portal, it was his mission to bring him to Ohio.

“I came on a visit and saw Jaylin again for the first time in a while and it was on from there,” Mitchell said. “He acclimated me with the rest of the guys and then I just knew it was the right decision.”

Mitchell and Hunter’s previous relationship on and off the court has allowed the two to pick up right where they left off in AAU.

“I think it helps in all aspects,” Hunter said. “(It helps during) games, having that same competitive spirit that

we each showed each other in high school when we played against each other and then with each other in AAU.”

Being on the court together as teammates has helped the two become the basketball players they are today.

“It’s been great to see our games mature at different speeds,” Hunter said. “We’ve been able to grow together throughout the season.”

However, it’s never been just about the relationship that the two have on the court; the pair are great friends and roommates when not on the court.

“We’re always laughing and joking; we’ve got the same taste in music, so we just bonded from there,” Mitchell said. “We always knew we were going to be really good friends off the court.”

Mitchell and Hunter, Ohio’s two leading scorers, have the team in line for yet another Mid-American Conference tournament run where the team will be looking to achieve its first MAC championship since 2021.

Though both players will see their college careers come to an end at the conclusion of this season, they’ve established a relationship that will last forever.

“After the game, just us being roommates and friends at the end of the day, caring about each other and each other’s family, it’s deeper than basketball,” Hunter said.


6 / FEBRUARY 22, 2024
Shereef Mitchell (4) and Jaylin Hunter (12) converse before they play at The Convo, in Athens, Ohio on Jan. 20, 2024. (JOE HALLQUIST | FOR THE POST)

Ohio’s most prolific scorers come from an unlikely group

Throughout the season, Ohio has seen outlier contributions from its freshman group. With five players, it is one of the Mid-American Conference’s largest groups of first-years and, objectively, the conference’s most productive group in the class.

Ohio’s freshmen account for nearly half of its points per game as a team, totaling a combined 29.3 points per game out of Ohio’s 63 points per game. Both of those marks sit atop the MAC, displaying how important the freshmen have been to the Bobcats early on.

Accounting for just conference play, their combined points per game would increase to 33.1, making up 52.8% of Ohio’s 62.7 points per game against MAC competition.

The significance of this for the Bobcats’ future should not be understated. Getting these kinds of contributions from the youngest members of the team is not only good for the time being, but also an excellent indicator of growth moving forward.

2024 Lazaroff Memorial Lecture

Roma, Jews, and the Holocaust

presented by Professor Ari Joskowicz, Vanderbilt University


February 29th 7:30 pm | Baker Theater

Join the Ohio University History Department for the 2024 Lazaroff Memorial Lecture. Guest Speaker, Professor Ari Joskowicz from Vanderbilt University will discuss the history of the genocide of Roma and Jews during World War II and their quest for justice.

A pre-event reception will be held in the Baker Theater Lounge

This event is FREE and open to the public.

sponsored by:



Monday-Thursday: 8 am - 4:30 pm

Friday: 8 am - Noon

Services include primary care and treatment of minor injuries and illnesses including:

» Asthma Care

» Common Skin Disorders

» Cold & Flu Treatment

» Immunizations

» Physicals

» Point of Care Testing



» Pregnancy Testing

» Preventative Health Services

» STD Testing

» TB Skin Testing

» Women’s Health

Miles Brown does whatever it takes to win for Ohio

Ohio guard Miles Brown’s Division I career was written in the stars or, rather, Northstar Christian Academy’s roster some nine years ago.

A very young Brown showed his athletic prowess well beyond his years as one of the most extraordinary eighth graders on his high school’s varsity basketball team. It was in Rochester, New York, seven hours northeast of Athens, that Brown became one of the greatest players in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Section V history.

He finished his career as the all-time leading scorer in Section V history. Brown punctuated his career by averaging a mind-blowing 35 points per game as a senior to become the third-highest scorer in New York State high school history.

Brown lacked the size of an average shooting guard at the high-major level to generate Power Five interest, but during his high school career, Brown did catch the eye of current Ohio Coach Jeff Boals. Boals wasn’t representing his beloved Bobcats but instead a local school to Brown, Stony Brook.

As fate would have it, Boals and assistant coach Lamar Thornton took positions at Ohio University but made sure not to forget about Brown.

A northeast kid, Brown had never heard of Ohio University, let alone Athens, but like many incoming freshmen, Brown fell in love with the campus, gelled with future teammates and made a long commitment to play for Ohio.

Brown picked perhaps the most surreal time to play at Ohio as a guard. He became teammates with one of the most talented Bobcats in decades, Jason Preston. Alongside Jordan Dartin, Preston’s play style was different from the 6-foot Brown’s play style. Preston, a future second-round pick, showed Brown how to be a leader.

“You would just watch what JP (Preston) did, and you knew that was the right thing to do,” Brown said.

Preston led the at-the-time sophomore Brown and the rest of the Bobcats to an NCAA tournament win over Virginia.

On one of the most talented offensive teams in Ohio history with the likes of future high-major players like Mark Sears and Ben VanDerplas, it’s safe to say Brown didn’t av-

erage the 34 points he did as a high school senior.

Instead, Brown adjusted to what the team needed, which was a defensive option off the bench. That’s exactly what Brown provided, and for it, he was rewarded with 17 minutes a game.

That’s not to say Brown was no source of offense for the Bobcats. In his first MAC tournament game, Brown went for 11 points in a first-round blowout against Kent State.

Ohio notoriously went on to win the MAC tournament, and Brown received his first and only taste of NCAA tournament playing time against Virginia and Creighton.

Three seasons later, Brown has gone from the defensive, athletic, reserved spark plug to Ohio’s most experienced player and one of the team’s most efficient 3-point shooters.

Brown played on two more MAC tournament qualifying teams after Preston and Sears left and Jaylin Hunter and Shereef Mitchell entered. What remained constant, though, was Brown’s drive to win.

Although many experienced players would ask to be the ball handler of the team or the primary scoring option like Brown was in high school, Brown was content doing whatever his team needed to win as many games as possible.

As a senior and fifth-year student, his teams have needed him to make 3-point shots, and Brown has stepped up to improve his 3-point percentage from 33% as a sophomore to 45% as a senior and 41% as a fifthyear.

“As I came into this program, I feel like I was just doing anything it took to win, and now, as my role gets expanded a little bit, I have to do some more on offense as well as hold up my end on defense,” Brown said.

Fans can be sure Brown will adjust again if his team requires it because that’s what Ohio’s elder statesman has done his entire career at Ohio: whatever it takes to win.

At some point, Brown, like all athletes, will have to say goodbye to the game he loves, but when that day comes, Brown can look back on the memories and accomplishments he’s had over the last decade and know his hard work has paid off.

8 / FEBRUARY 22, 2024 5 N. Court Street • Athens, Ohio
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MAC Power Rankings

With just two and a half weeks to go, the MAC tournament field is starting to shape up. Unlike many conferences, there are no byes, and only eight teams make the tournament. Teams will now fight for positions to qualify to play in Cleveland.

Here is how the MAC looks with about six games to go.


The preseason favorite to win the conference has more than lived up to expectations with just two weeks to go in the regular season. The Zips are 19-6 overall and 11-1 in conference play. Akron is undefeated against the rest of the top five in the conference. The Zips’ only loss in MAC play was a 2-point defict to Miami on. Powered by Enrique Freeman and Ali Ali, the Zips will be extremely difficult to stop in the MAC Tournament.

Bowling Green

Ohio saw just how well Bowling Green can play in a 5-point road loss against the in-state rival. After nearly a perfect start in the conference, Bowling Green has lost three of their last four games, including a loss to previously 2-9 Eastern Michigan. If the Falcons get back to their high level of play in January, there’s no reason the team can’t make a deep MAC tournament run.

Western Michigan

Western Michigan’s six-game losing streak does not appear to be ending soon after the team’s most recent 27-point loss to rival Central Michigan. If the Broncos want to remain in the MAC tournament field, the team will have to turn things around quickly.




Central Michigan

As good as Akron has been this season, Toledo has only been one step behind the entire season. The only separator between the teams is an early February loss the Rockets suffered against the Zips. The Rockets’ high-scoring backcourt, led by Ra’Heim Moss and Dante Maddox Jr., could lead them to finally get over the hump in the MAC tournament.

Ohio has a middle-of-the-road record in the conference but is as dangerous as any team outside of the top two. The Bobcats have two 2-point road losses in MAC play, including its most recent loss to Toledo. The Bobcats’ largest-margin loss in MAC play is by 9 points to the first-place Zips. The team can play with anyone but hasn’t picked up a marquee win against Toledo or Akron yet.

Central Michigan has an easy argument as the third-best team in the conference with nine wins in the conference already, including a huge victory over Toledo. The Chippewas have had two double-overtime MAC wins, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but leads one to question how sustainable the team’s white-hot start is for the remainder of conference play. Regardless of the team’s position in the rankings, the Chippewas will be an extremely difficult matchup in March.

The only team to beat Akron in the MAC slots at No. 6. Although the Redhawks have had some quality games against the MAC’s best teams, including a very close road loss to the Rockets, they have also had head-scratching losses. Miami lost to Northern Illinois in its second of three straight losses earlier this month. After a week-long break, the Redhawks came back to defeat Ball State by 21.

Ball State

The Cardinals are going through some struggles similar to that of the team above them. The Cardinals’ 21-point loss to Miami has them one game out of eighth place in the MAC at 4-8.

Kent State

Kent State is one of the hotter teams in the MAC. With three straight conference wins under their belt, the Golden Flashes are looking to solidify themselves as a MAC tournament team. The only reason Kent State remains below Miami is a head-to-head loss three weeks ago.

Eastern Michigan

Can Tyson Acuff lead the Eagles to a miracle run to the MAC tournament after a 3-9 start? The next two weeks will determine what the nation’s seventh-leading scorer is capable of. Acuff went for 34 points and 10 rebounds in the Eagles’ upset against Bowling Green. The Eagles’ next four games are extremely winnable, as they take on four teams at or below .500. The Eagles finish the season with Akron and Central Michigan, two formidable foes, but given the state of the teams around them, it isn’t unreasonable to think a 4-2 finish would be good enough to slip into the MAC tournament.

Northern Illinois


The other 3-9 MAC team, Northern Illinois, isn’t out of the MAC tournament race yet, but it desperately needs to make a late-season run to have a chance to play in the postseason.

The Bulls have won one conference game all year. Four games behind eighth place, the Bulls may need to win all their remaining games to make the MAC tournament.



Ohio sophomores power current team,

Ohio’s group of sophomores includes two all-Mid-American Conference players, the MAC’s most efficient 3-point shooter and the team’s biggest highlight producer. Ohio’s sophomore standouts have been a key part of the team’s climb back to contention in the MAC and provide the brightest of futures for the program going forward.

It’s rare to have a singular recruiting class have as many breakout stars as Ohio’s sophomores. The Bobcats’ 2023-24 lineup has, at times, featured as many as three players, all from the same class. All four members of the class have, at times, given the team 20-plus minutes of play and led the team in a major statistical category.

Though each player eventually found their way to Athens, each has a unique story and style of play that makes them so special.

Elmore James

in the country at his age. Midway through his sophomore season, James has already appeared in 54 games for the Bobcats, including 32 starts.

James started 15 games as a freshman for Ohio, which was more than any other freshman in his class. Coming into his second season, James’ experience as a freshman made all the difference in becoming an impact player for the Bobcats.

“The more you prepare leading up to games, the better you are when you get out there,” James said. “My mindset changed, just being a hard worker, I want to get better every chance I can.”

Behind guards like Jaylin Hunter and Miles Brown, James isn’t on the court to lead the team in scoring. Rather, at just 6 foot, 3 inches, James found a way to be one of Ohio’s top rebounders and an assist leader for the team.

James brings a poise and a passion to the sophomore class that is rare for a player his age. On any given night, James finds a different way to impact the game.

The moment has never been too big for James, from starting as a freshman to playing

Playing at Ohio is “like a dream come true” for sophomore guard Elmore James.

James, a native of Cleveland, always wanted to follow in his sister's footsteps of coming to Ohio after she graduated from the university in 2017. When James got the call from Ohio during his junior year of high school, it wasn’t a hard decision.

“Things mean a lot more to me than they may to other people,” James said. “Any chance I have to have a good game or have a big impact on a game, it adds a little more fuel to me that my sister went here.”

Only a sophomore, James has had an impact on more games than most other players

in Ohio’s biggest games as a sophomore. It’s hard to believe that James is a true sophomore when he’s on the court.

AJ Brown

The sophomore class wouldn’t be what it is without AJ Brown. The 6-foot-4-inch guard out of Florida was a three-star recruit coming out of high school and the highest-ranked recruit of the class.

AJ Brown had offers from schools like Penn State and Clemson but ultimately chose Ohio. The ceiling for AJ Brown may be higher than any player on the team, but he hasn’t been able to avoid injury.

Before a shoulder injury during his freshman year, AJ Brown led all freshmen with over 20 minutes per game across his 26 ap-

pearances. Coming into his sophomore season, AJ Brown was a lock in Ohio’s starting lineup to start the season. After just nine games, all of which he started, AJ Brown was once again sidelined with a season-ending injury.

While AJ Brown will not see the court again until next season, he’s been sure to make an impact on the bench. Ohio Coach Jeff Boals has noted that AJ Brown has been one of the team’s most vocal leaders on the bench since his injury.

Brown will always have a smile on his face while rooting for the team, whether he’s sidelined with injury or on the floor putting up points.

A bond that will last a lifetime

Even though Brown, James, Sheldon and Hadaway may be from all different parts of the country, they were forced by circumstance to come together as great friends.

Whether it be playing NBA 2K, doing homework, going out to eat, working out or playing three-on-three, the newly acquainted freshmen were practically inseparable.

As it turns out, the four freshmen plus walk-ons Ben Estis and Quinn Corna turned out to be more similar than they thought.

“We’re pretty much the same type of people,” James said. “Simple to talk to; we all love the game. We just connect on a lot of things together.”

The group’s relationship off the court plays a big role in their success on the court.

Even if one guy is having an off night, they know the rest of the group has their back.

“This is the closest team I’ve been on,” Sheldon said. “We’re a close group of guys and that’s what feeds into our energy. We’re all just excited for each other.”

Today, the simultaneous success of Brown, Hadaway, Sheldon and James is something the quartet only dreamed about a year ago.

“We used to talk about it in the summer of coming in here,” Hadaway said. “Freshman year, we were talking about (how) it’s going to be crazy – sophomores playing together, starting together, playing together at the same time, producing together … We just didn’t think it would come this fast.”

Ajay Sheldon

Unlike Elmore James and AJ Brown, the most notable thing about Ajay Sheldon in his freshman year, at least from a fan’s perspective, was his last name. Sheldon’s older sister, Jacy, is the leading scorer and minute-getter in one of the premier women’s programs in the country: Ohio State.

As a freshman, it’s safe to say Sheldon didn’t have quite the same impact as his sister had at Ohio State, as Ajay averaged 1 point per game. Fair or not, this led to plenty of questions directed toward Ajay about his sister’s game rather than his own; so much so that at the first mention of Jacy’s name in an interview, Ajay shook his head and laughed as if to say “Here we go again.”

Ajay isn’t bitter about the attention his sister receives; instead, Sheldon said he sees the perks of having other people’s experiences to learn from in a basketball-rich family.

“My dad’s a coach … my mom has been around the game forever,” Sheldon said. “Now it’s awesome because a lot of things that you go through as a player, my sister has gone through the same thing. So, it’s nice to have people to talk to about that kind of stuff.”

Despite the comparisons to his sister, Sheldon was an incredible player in his own right at Dublin Coffman High School. While certainly not the biggest or fastest player, Sheldon used his offensive abilities to average 24 points per game as a junior.

“I’ve always tried to focus on being crafty a little bit and thinking what guys aren’t thinking,” Sheldon said.

Sheldon’s opportunities were limited as a freshman behind experienced guards like Jaylin Hunter and Devon Baker. Although Sheldon was very happy to see a fellow freshman, Elmore James, break out as an AllMAC guard, it unquestionably took minutes from him at the guard position.

Despite Baker’s graduation ahead of Sheldon’s sophomore season, Ohio grabbed guard Shereef Mitchell from the trans-

10 / FEBRUARY 22, 2024

team, provide future success

fer portal and it reinforced a log jam at the shooting guard position.

Regardless of who was in front of him, Sheldon was determined to improve. He said the biggest difference maker from year one to year two was his mentality.

“There’s a lot of things behind the scenes that people don’t notice,” Sheldon said. “Coach Boals always says, ‘mind right, game right,’ and I think (confidence) was the biggest thing for me.”

It wasn’t long into his sophomore season that Sheldon received his first opportunity, and he more than made the most of it. Sheldon was on the floor for 19 minutes against Cleveland State and made both of the 3-pointers he attempted for an at-thetime career-high 7 points. Even though Ohio lost the game, it found a new reliable scoring option off the bench, and though the game was certainly a new high point for Sheldon’s young career, the 6-foot-1-inch guard was just getting started.

Sheldon continued to give Ohio quality minutes off the bench throughout the nonconference but had his first standout performance in the team’s MAC opener against Toledo this season. Sheldon set a new career high with 13 points. Since then, Sheldon has backed up that performance with a 12-point outing against Buffalo, a 15-point outing against Kent State and a new career high of 17 points against Arkansas State.

Sheldon is neck and neck with Gabe Wiz-

nitzer as the team’s most efficient scorer, shooting at an extremely impressive 54% clip, including a team-high 53% from 3-point range.

Sheldon is playing as one of Ohio’s most efficient players; it won’t be long until he makes a name for himself as an elite offensive player — if he isn’t viewed that way already. As attention from outsiders comes and goes, what Sheldon will always have is his signature fearless attitude.

“I’ve always been pretty confident, so that helps,” Sheldon said. “The guy guarding me might be taller than me; I might not even notice.”

Aidan Hadaway

In one season, Hadaway has gone from a 7-minute-per-game player to an essential part of Ohio’s starting lineup. As a freshman, Hadaway played fewer minutes than Sheldon, James and Brown, but this season, Hadaway has just one less start than James.

Hadaway struggled to make an impact comparable to Brown and James’ as a freshman and went through some confidence issues. Hadaway’s 1.3 points per game as a freshman wasn’t for a lack of talent, however. Hadaway dominated as a high-school player, garnering offers from Georgia and Belmont.

In middle school and his early years of high school, Hadaway didn’t have the 6-foot8-inch size he has now. Having to succeed in other ways, Hadaway became an elite shooter in middle school and developed other guard-like attributes as an underclassman in high school.

Once Hadaway hit a growth spurt in his later years of high school and combined it with his offensive skill, he became a truly elite player in the Amateur Athletic Union, or AAU, circuit, where he averaged 24 points per game and 12 rebounds per game.

Understandably, the transition from an outstanding player in high school to the fourth-leading minute-getter in his class on his team was a difficult one.

Hadaway worked tirelessly to improve over the offseason with Casey Crawford and Coach Lee Martin. By Hadaway’s estimation, he shot 15,000 3-pointers over the summer to improve his shooting.

Hadaway’s work ethic is something that Ohio Coach Jeff Boals hasn’t just noticed but lauded. According to Hadaway, though, the work ethic wasn’t something that he always carried with him in high school.

“In high school, I really never had to work,” Hadaway said. “I don’t want to be cocky, but

I was always like the best player around. But I got here, I met Casey Crawford and me and him were in the gym every single day.”

Hadaway’s hard work was immediately noticeable at the beginning of the 2023-24 season. Even though Hadaway wasn’t getting starts early in the season, the quality of play he was providing Ohio was as good as anyone coming off the bench.

Despite having consistent solid performances off the bench, Hadaway described his game against Delaware as the turning point. Hadaway played at the time a season-high 22 minutes off the bench, during which he scored 7 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a thrilling 1-point victory over Delaware.

Hadaway’s confidence continued to grow, and in his next game, the forward put all his skills on display in a 14-point performance against Youngstown State.

Hadaway was a key contributor for Ohio at the midway point of the season, but when AJ Brown suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, he stepped up into the starting lineup. It was then that Hadaway really started to feel that the hard work he put in during the offseason completely paid off.

During January, Hadaway had three straight 10-plus point outings, including a new career high of 20 points against Eastern Michigan.

“All the coaches know – my family knows especially – how hard I’ve worked and for it to pay off and I’m able to provide for this team the way I am as of right now, it’s very

special to me,” Hadaway said.

In his time as a starter, Hadaway has had jaw-dropping dunks, a 20-point outing and thunderous blocks, but the accomplishment Hadaway is especially proud of is his ability to crank 90s in Fortnite.

“Fortnite (is my favorite game),” Hadaway said. “I’m the best player on the team by far, it’s not even close.”

Since being added to Ohio’s starting lineup, Hadaway truly hasn’t looked back. From his freshman year to today, Hadaway’s confidence has gone from his biggest weakness to his greatest strength.

“The more work you put in, the more confidence you’re going to have in yourself,” Hadaway said. “Whenever I produce in a game like I have – like the 20-point game – my confidence, I don’t think it’s ever been this high.”

The Future of the Program

With Brown being a lanky, explosive wing player, Sheldon an extremely efficient combo guard, James a slashing shooting guard and Hadaway an athletic stretch power forward, there’s no reason Ohio’s sophomore standouts can’t see substantial minutes on the floor together at the same time for years to come.

AJ Brown, Elmore James, Aidan Hadaway and Ajay Sheldon have a bond that will last forever. As for their time on the court, each is only halfway through their eligibility at Ohio and will look to leave their mark in the coming years.

For a program that has seen so much success in recent years, Ohio’s sophomores set the team up for even more.

The leap that this group has made in a short two-year span is something that is rare within a basketball program and shows signs of prolonged success.

“They’re great kids,” Boals said. “You don’t normally see all four make the big jump that they made.”


Bob Boldon considers Athens to be his true home

Ohio Coach Bob Boldon begins his day the same way every morning. Boldon walks out of his house in his Athens neighborhood and begins his commute to work. Boldon’s walk has now become slightly well-known around the Athens area.

While the route changes from day to day, as do his mornings. Some days he will drop off his son at school before heading through South Green for a meeting at the Ping Recreation Center.

Other days, he will stroll down Court Street, passing the many locally owned businesses and shops before making his way to his office in The Convo.

His walk takes him all around the campus of Ohio, as well as the surrounding areas. His ever-changing routes give him varying views of the town he has called home for over 10 years.

“That little bit of variety is probably good for me,” said Boldon. “Walking through South Green one day and walking down Court Street the next … I enjoy the variety and the uniqueness of everything that I can see and take in along the way.”

For Boldon, the walk serves as a form of therapy, a reset and a moment for the coach to relax and take in his town.

“I enjoy that fresh air. I enjoy the sunshine,” said Boldon. “(It’s nice to take) some time between leaving your house and your responsibilities at home, before your responsibilities at work start. Then on the back end, leaving work and having a little bit of time to decompress before walking into being at home and being a husband and a dad (is nice).”

Boldon is the father of four sons, one of whom, Tyler, currently attends Ohio University, which means a lot to the head coach.

“I love every second of having him around,” Boldon said. “ He’s a practice player, comes to practices, and helps out on the floor. It has been a godsend to have him here … I’m enjoying every second of it.”

Before Boldon was ever coaching for Ohio, he came to Athens as a coach for Youngstown State but was never fully acclimated with the area.

Boldon’s view of the Southeastern Ohio town was limited in his early coaching years, often not being able to see the entirety of Athens during his visits.

“I played against Ohio a number of times but we always stayed at the OU Inn, so my experience of Ohio Univeristy was crossing a bridge before there was a round-a-bout to the Convo, and then leaving,” Boldon said. “We never knew what Court Street was and

we never saw the rest of campus.”

It wasn’t until Boldon interviewed for the head coaching job that he was able to fully experience Athens.

“In my interview, I couldn’t believe that a place like this existed,” said Boldon. “When I interviewed, Jim Shells drove me around and I was awestruck about how beautiful the campus was and how the history of this campus has been preserved … If I were to picture what a college campus would look like in a movie it would be Ohio University … It was a little bit of love at first sight.”

Since his hiring in 2013, Boldon has had great success at Ohio, leading his 2015 squad to a MAC title and an NCAA tournament appearance. But during his many years in Athens, Boldon has grown to appreciate the town for its sense of community and belonging.

“I often tell people if you can’t find somebody you like in Athens then you won’t find somebody you like anywhere,” Boldon said. “I’m very happy to be a part of a community that accepts so many different walks of life and so many different types of people.”

Boldon, born in Louisville, Ohio, a city right outside Canton, played college basketball at Walsh University. Boldon has coached all over the state, starting his coaching journey at Wilmington College as an assistant. His next stop in the state came in 2006, where he served as the top assistant on Akron’s coaching staff for three years.

He would then go on to take the head coaching job at Youngstown State after another stint as an assistant at Florida Gulf Coast. He would coach the Penguins from an 0-30 record the year before he took over to an NWIT tournament appearance by the end of his tenure.

Boldon has made his rounds in the coaching world, especially across his home state. While he has spent significant time in various cities across Ohio, Athens is the one that sticks out as his home.

“(Athens is) a beautiful place; it's a tight-knit place; it's a place where everybody gets along,” Boldon said. “There’s a lot of respect for the town from both the students and the people who live here full time. It’s very interesting to me how the two merge together … I find it fascinating. It’s just a wonderful place to live.”


12 / FEBRUARY 22, 2024
Ohio Coach, Jeff Boals, during the game against Miami University at The Convo, Feb. 3, 2024. (JACK TATHAM | FOR THE POST) Ohio Coach, Bob Boldon, during the game against Texas State at The Convo, Feb. 10, 2024. (ABBIE KINNEY| ART DIRECTOR)
There’s no

Jeff Boals feels lucky to call The Convo home place like it

Every day, Ohio Coach Jeff Boals takes state Route 682 and gets off at the Richland Avenue exit for work. For most, a drive to work doesn’t have much significance. For Boals, a 1995 Ohio University graduate, the daily drive to work is a never-ending happy memory.

When Boals turns down the highway, he sees OU’s campus; he sees the rich nature of Appalachia; he sees Peden Stadium; but most importantly, he sees The Convo, a place that Boals has called his office for the last five years but also a place that has been home to him for a lot longer.

For people just passing through the area or the casual one-time campus visitor for a college tour, The Convo is just a large, rickety, old circular building that defines the skyline of bricks in Athens. For Boals, that big, rickety building is home to some of his fondest memories as a college basketball player.

Hanging from the circular roof of the building are championship banners from the 14 times Ohio has won the Mid-American Conference, but one, in particular, sticks out to Boals. A long banner with the year “1994” etched in white against fading green fabric.

The banner symbolizes the lifetime friendships Boals established with his teammates when he led the Bobcats to a MAC Championship as team captain.

“I bring up my team that I played with all the time to our guys,” Boals said. “There’s no better feeling than when you’re a part of something bigger than yourself … Especially guys who didn't grow up in Ohio; they don't know the dynamics and the importance and what this place is about. It’s up to me to relive what I’ve done.”

When Boals sits down at his desk in the Vernon L. Alden Basketball Suite at The Convo, he reminisces on that MAC Championship and can’t believe that he found his way to the desk where Larry Hunter, legendary Ohio coach and Boals’ former mentor, once sat.

It wasn’t Boals’ original goal to become a coach, but when an assistant job opened up during his final season playing — the season that Boals suffered a season-ending knee injury — he didn’t hesitate to stay in the Ohio family for just a little longer.

There were some unusual moments for Boals, going straight from playing on the team one year to being an assistant the next. He recalled facilitating study tables in Bentley Hall with players he used to call teammates. Nevertheless, Boals always saw himself as a coach on the floor during his playing days, so it didn’t take long for him to settle in.

At the time, Boals made only $6,000 to help out with the team, but it was never about the money. It was always for the love of the game and for his love of OU.

“My goal was always to be the head coach at Ohio University,” Boals said. “I’ve had calls since I’ve been here. I’m going to get (more) calls … But the grass isn't always greener.”

Though he’s worked for many different programs in his nearly 30-year coaching career and had opportunities to work at other schools, something always draws Boals back to Athens.

Maybe it's the scenic view driving down Richland Ave. or maybe it's all those fond memories he has as a player nearly 30 years ago at The Convo, but no matter what it is, Boals knows that he’s right where he wants to be.

Whether it's on a Tuesday night in primetime or a Saturday afternoon, Boals lights up The Convo with a fiery passion that goes way beyond his love for basketball. His emotion cascades over The Convo crowd on any given day because that is why he’s on the sidelines in the first place.

Boals is there because of the Athens locals, those who temporarily called OU home and the forever Bobcats.

Every time the final buzzer echoes through those circular walls, signifying an Ohio victory, Boals is the first to erupt from the bench with fists pumping as he rushes straight to the other end of the court to celebrate with the fans in the arena. If fans ever get discouraged, a simple gesture from Boals is enough to inject life right back into the crowd because that’s what he does. Boals rules The Convo with his heart, creating the rich culture of Ohio basketball.

When Boals first returned as head coach, many former Ohio staff from when he played welcomed him back with open arms. These are the people who Boals is eternally grateful for.

“When you go through college, you have so many experiences and you meet so many people, not only classmates, but professors,” Boals said. “When I came back, my academic adviser would come to my press conferences, which was really cool. My trainer retired, but he lived here; he was still around … When you look at campus, you look at people, you look at the job, it is the opportunity here; I just have an affinity for Ohio University. I loved it.”

Coaching in Athens has always been the dream for Boals, a dream that he lives out every day on the court of The Convo.

“(Playing at The Convo) never gets old; there are people in the stands that watched me play,” Boals said. “It’s a cool deal, there’s not a lot of people who can say they coached at their alma mater.”


Freshmen pave the way to brighter future

As it sits on the edge of a conference tournament berth, Ohio has seen minor improvements from the team’s lastplace finish in the Mid-American Conference last season. Whether they make it past the regular season or not, the fresh-faced Bobcats added many pieces to a roster that has a bright future ahead of it.

The 2023 season has brought about multiple injuries for Ohio players, including star returning guard Jaya McClure sitting out eight games, senior guard Peyton Guice not making her season debut until Dec. 5 against Ohio State, and Emma Barnett and Cassidy Lafler being sidelined for a majority of the season as well.

Despite the negative impact of Ohio’s injuries, it opened the door for freshmen to enter into larger roles this season.

The 2023 recruiting class stands as an outlier among its predecessors, boasting three players with over 20 minutes a game: Monica Williams, Laylay Fantroy and Bailey Tabeling — all of whom continue to take turns in the spotlight just months into their young careers.

While each player makes a similar impact, they all bring something fresh to the table that indicates flashes of future success for the team.

In recent Bobcat history, a freshman playing over 25 minutes a game is a rare sight. Sophomore Jaya McClure did it last season, totaling 27.1 minutes per game in her freshman campaign, but she only started five games last season.

However, Williams stands as an exception. Not only does she average 25.8 minutes per game through 23 games this season — the second-highest average on the team — but she is just one of two players to start in every game so far this season.

It’s a feat that stems from Williams’ ability on the court and the trust that Ohio Head Coach Bob Boldon has had in her from the beginning. It’s a trust that Williams feels she earned through her dedication leading up to the season.

On the court, it’s been an upward developmental curve for Williams. There were flashes in her first career game against Appalachian State, but Ohio conceded a comeback that led to a 7-point loss. In that game, Williams had a season-high 11 turnovers to go with 9 points.

Williams said her work ethic helped her to adjust to the season’s ups and downs. She emphasized the importance of having a “next-play mentality” and being able to focus on continual improvement.

Since the start of MAC play, Williams has improved her stats and efficiency across the board. Before the team’s first conference game against Akron on Jan. 3, Williams had been averaging just 6.7 points per game and 1.7 assists per game, along with 4.2 turnovers per game. However, following that introductory MAC matchup, she’s gone up to 9.8 points per game and 2.5 assists per game while lowering her turnover average to 3.8 per game.

“I feel like I’ve grown more aggressive,” Williams said. “Getting to the basket, making passes and, on defense, (drawing) more charges.”

In recent stretches, Williams is relied on offensively, as the team has been riddled with injuries all year long. Her ability to get to the basket, especially with a nifty spin or a bump with the shoulder, is helping keep the Bobcats revving through the season.

Fantroy caught the eyes of many in Ohio’s preseason exhibition matchup against Marietta. She scored just 8 points and went 3-of-4 shooting from the field in the matchup. However, she stood out as one of the more unorthodox players on the floor.

Fantroy, standing at 5 feet, 11 inches, possesses an imposing build for a guard. Her size helps her in many facets of her game and allowed her to grab a game-high 11 rebounds in that exhibition matchup. She is also a force defensively, protecting the rim and picking up guards full court after a made basket on the other end. Fantroy ranks fifth in the MAC in steals per game with 2, making her the only freshman in the top five.

Fantroy wears many hats for the Bobcats, and as the team endures its many injuries, she’s had to pull out the whole wardrobe, executing each one to great success.

Boldon said he and the team have tasked Fantroy with a lot, crediting her malleability. Fantroy has played just about every position on the floor for the Bobcats in her young career, and she will certainly fill in more as she continues to grow.

“Whatever my coach needs me to do, whether it’s guarding the ball, rebounding, bringing the ball down or just being a role player,” Fantroy said. “I’m able to accept that role and know how to play my part very well.”

Lately, the role is Fantroy growing as a scorer. Fantroy has started four straight games as the team has started to lean into its freshman trio more and more, and since entering the starting five, Fantroy has averaged 14 points per game on 52% from the field.

This stretch included two career-high scoring performances in three games, starting with a 19-point performance in the team’s first of two matchups against Ball State, followed shortly after by a 24-point explosion against Texas State – the highest scoring performance by a Bobcat this season.

As of late, the highs and lows have turned into mostly highs, and the fluctuating role has acted as a trial by fire for Fantroy, who has been burning hot in response.

“I’m starting to get into the flow of it,” Fantroy said, “I feel like I’m adapting really well.”

14 / FEBRUARY 22, 2024


Ohio came into the 2023-24 season looking for sparks. The Bobcats entered this year having lost the MAC’s top scorer, Yaya Felder, and made an effort to replace her scoring prowess with a multitude of new players.

No player has done a better job of replacing that scoring than Bailey Tabeling. The sharpshooting guard from Seymour, Indiana, burst onto the scene quickly, becoming wellknown for her 3-point shooting ability.

The sudden impact from a freshman isn’t typical across college basketball, and it wasn’t expected by Tabeling either.

“I did not think I would be playing this much or have this much of an impact,” said Tabeling. “I figured it’s going to be one of those instances where you’re a freshman and you’ve got a pretty good group of older, more experienced players playing. Being as helpful as I am took me kind of by surprise a bit.”

Tabeling has been incredibly impactful for Ohio in her first year, averaging 9.4 points per game and shooting 43% from three in her first year.

Beyond her scoring ability, Tabeling adapted her style of play to find ways to impact the game on both sides of the ball, especially in creating turnovers on defense.

“Over my high school career, I was never really the best at defense,” said Tabeling. “Coming into college, defense wins the games for you. We have a great defensive coach, and he’s willing to help me get better at it.”

Among the team, Tabeling ranks second in steals with 37, turning most of those steals into fastbreak points the other way.

Tabeling was productive for Ohio the whole year, but her true breakout performance happened on Dec. 9 against Syracuse when Tabeling put up 23 points and shot 7-of-9 from

behind the arc. In that game, Tabeling found her identity and the role she fits best to help Ohio win.

“I just figured shooting is one of the skills that I’m just good at,” said Tabeling. “Then (I) came here and had the Syracuse game, and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m definitely a better shooter than I am driver.’”

Since the game, Tabeling is Ohio’s primary threat for 3-point shots, and her play has changed the way Ohio runs its offense and how teams play defense against her.

She has made a tremendous impact for the Bobcats this season at a time when they needed it.

A Home Away from Home

For Ohio’s trio of star freshmen, adjusting on the court has been the biggest point of emphasis, to the point that their adjustments to college life off the court have gone unnoticed.

Being away from home can inspire more than just a feeling of distance, it can pose a mental barrier for first-year players. Williams and Fantroy said the mental barrier was one of their biggest challenges, but they have pushed through it and gained confidence throughout the season.

For Tabeling, her family has served as a support system back home and has been a huge part of her development throughout her career.

“My support system back home, my whole family, they were amazing,” Tabeling said. “They were always there if we needed anything, whether school or just life in general.”

It can be hard to adjust to college in many different ways. The schedule of college basketball is far more demanding than lower levels.

“We play a lot of games, so (my body has to adjust) to go from playing to practicing to lifting … and then going back and doing it all over again,” Fantroy said. “You live, you learn,

you grow, you keep getting stronger.”

The Future of the Program

At the core of Ohio’s future sits Fantroy, Tabeling and Williams — three star freshmen who have already made their mark on the program. Sophomore guard Jaya McClure adds to the young star power the Bobcats hold.

All four players complement each other well, Tabeling as an ultra-reliable scoring option; Williams and McClure as lightning-quick guards with steady hands; and Fantroy as the glue that hold the team and quartet together, able to guard every position on the court.

It will be key for Ohio to hold on to this young nucleus of players that includes other freshmen Emma Barnett and Asiah Baxter, especially after star guard Yaya Felder transferred from Ohio to Baylor over the offseason.

With the option of the transfer portal looming, it is ever so important to win immediately, even with the bright future that Ohio has.

“You got to win now,” Boldon said. “I don’t know what the future holds for anybody in the state of college basketball right now.” @LOGANA_NBA LA486821@OHIO.EDU @CHARLIEFADEL CF111322@OHIO.EDU

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Bailey Tabeling is an outlier, stats back it up

When Bailey Tabeling has the ball in her hands beyond the 3-point line and the basket in front of her, she rises and fires with confidence. Countless hours of work with her dad, brothers and coaches have turned her into one of the most confident shooters in the NCAA, so when the ball falls through the net, it comes as no surprise.

Tabeling’s shooting is more than just the confidence she lets it fly with. Her numbers from beyond the 3-point line are truly an outlier, not just in the Mid-American Conference but in the NCAA as a whole. Tabeling shoots 43.7% from behind the arc, the second-highest mark in the MAC and the 16th-highest in Division I.

Despite playing significantly fewer minutes than the players surrounding her on the MAC leaderboard for 3-pointers made, Tabeling has also made the third-most 3-pointers in the conference. The rate at which Tabeling gets these long-range shots up is a testament to that confidence and how she views the game of basketball.

“Shooting has always been a big part of basketball,” Tabeling said. “Getting in the gym and taking time to actually practice on it and focus on it … made everything better.”

Tabeling might not have had the biggest scoring role for the Bobcats early this season, but her efficiency on the shots she’s been allowed to take has made her one of the team’s most dangerous offensive players.

Tabeling’s journey toward becoming an elite outside weapon has looked different from a lot of other stories with similar results. It wasn’t until Ohio took on Syracuse on Dec. 9 that Tabeling realized how good of a shooter she could be. Tabeling had a career-high 23 points and a season-high for any Bobcat with seven 3-pointers made.

Since then, Tabeling hasn’t looked back, embracing shooting as a skill that can define her game for years to come. Since becoming a starter for Ohio against Miami, Tabeling has turned into a primary scoring option for the team, with 3-pointers making up the majority of her shots.

In the six games since Tabeling became a starter, she’s averaging 31 minutes per game, taking nearly nine 3-point attempts per game. That number stands as a testament to not just how good of a shooter Tabeling is and has learned to be, but also to those hard hours put into mastering her craft, not fully knowing where it would take her

16 / FEBRUARY 22, 2024

Miles Brown’s 3-pointers close out Ohio’s win

The difference between making and missing a singular shot is often the difference between winning and losing in basketball. For Miles Brown and Ohio, that couldn't be more true in the last two games. Against Toledo, Brown missed a late open 3-point shot that would've put Ohio ahead; however, in Ohio's 63-57 win over Kent State, Brown made two crucial 3-pointers to put Ohio over the top for its sixth-straight home win.

It was never easy offensively for Ohio in either half. While the Bobcats had a strong showing in the first nine minutes, scoring 16 points, the team would go on long extended scoring droughts to score just 11 more points in the final 11 minutes of the first half. Ohio's highest scorers, Jaylin Hunter and Shereef Mitchell, were held to a combined 3-11 shooting in the first half, going against a collapsing and physical Kent State defense.

While Ike Cornish stepped up to give the Bobcats 5 points off the bench, the offense as a whole shot just 9-25 from the field in the first half.

Defensively, the Bobcats weren't perfect either. Despite holding the Golden Flashes to 36% shooting in the first half, the Golden Flashes came up with eight offensive rebounds.

Led by 6 points from forward AJ Clayton, Ohio began the second half much improved offensively. Ohio also stepped up its act on the glass, with guards like Hunter and Mitchell contributing to boxing out Kent State foes.

"The rebounding was much better in the second half," Boals said. "I thought the second half we were getting clean

rebounds and able to get into transition and have some bigtime transition points."

Despite that, Ohio players and fans looked up at the scoreboard to see the team still behind.

While the Bobcats remained within arm's length, they couldn't quite get over the hump to take the lead.

It wasn't until the team had a big deficit, as it faced in the second half down 50-44, that it was able to sustain a run. Guard Ajay Sheldon started the run, knocking down a 3-point jump shot well beyond the arc to get within 3 points of Kent State's lead. Then Hunter made a difficult mid-range jumper through a foul and a double team, which put him on the free throw line with a chance to tie.

Hunter made his free throw, and Ohio got yet another stop. Mitchell couldn't capitalize on an open look, leading to a Kent State transition opportunity. Racing back on defense, Sheldon was faced with the seemingly impossible task of defending a two-on-one situation. Sheldon made the play look routine, getting into perfect guarding position and rejecting Kent State's layup opportunity.

Ohio capitalized on Sheldon's defensive heroics when taking its first lead since early in the first half with a made free throw from Aidan Hadaway and a mid-range jumper from Hunter with under four minutes to go.

Kent State wouldn't go away, though, and the team even managed to retake the lead with back-to-back scoring trips to break a scoring drought that lasted longer than five minutes.

It was then that Brown found himself wide open in the corner off a beautiful feed from Hunter and knocked down a crucial 3-point jumper to give Ohio the advantage.

Ohio created some separation by making free throws from Hadaway after a fast break opportunity. That separation didn't last long, as Kent State guard Jalen Sullinger hit a highly-contested 3-point jumper to bring the score to 5857. Ohio needed one more score to put the game away, and Brown, the hot hand, knew just where to be when Ohio was able to draw a double team. After the ball was reversed to Sheldon, Brown was open at the top of the key and made his second clutch 3-point jumper to give Ohio a late 4-point lead. Ohio played great defense to close out its 63-57 win.

Hunter and Brown were the two players to make it to double-figures, but it was the defense that ultimately put the team over the top, as it allowed just 57 points on 32% shooting. Given Ohio's recent defensive outings, allowing over 80 points against both Arkansas State and Toledo, this was especially impressive.

When Brown was asked about his late-game heroics, he made his job seem relatively straightforward.

"I think I had the easy part," Brown said. "The first 3 I got was from Hunter, he came off the ball screen and found me wide open in the corner and that's what we've been practicing all week ... The second 3, I think Sheldon gave me the one more pass and I was just wide open again."

Simple or not, Brown's two makes were the difference for Ohio in a game that was even closer than the 6-point margin that Ohio had to end the game.

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An optimistic, pessimistic perspective on Ohio’s future

Logan Adams

On the season, Ohio sits at 7-16. The pessimist looks at that duo of numbers and concludes that the season has been a wash and looking forward to a bright future would be foolish. The optimist, on the other hand, would look at the record and likely note how the team has already eclipsed their previous season’s record and sits just on the outside of the Mid-American Conference tournament despite the bevy of new faces and names lining the locker room at The Convo.

Both the optimist and the pessimist are going off what is right in front of them but coming to different conclusions. Both conclusions are logical and supported, yet they disagree with one another rather plainly.

However, while the pessimist’s evaluation of the short term might be accurate with the Bobcats unlikely to be cutting down any nets at the end of the season, the optimist’s view of the future this program has is the mindset fans of the team should have.

To estimate the future, looking at the past is necessary. Last season, Ohio finished last in the MAC, going 6-23 despite a fantastic season from Yaya Felder, who transferred to Baylor after leading the MAC in scoring at 22 points per game.

Along with Felder, many of Ohio’s top rotation players departed from the team, leaving the program and Ohio Coach Bob Boldon to try to fill out nearly half the roster with freshmen and transfers. The team’s freshman class consisted of five players and two transfers helped to complete the new group. On top of the new nameplates in the locker room, Ohio has seen veterans return from season-ending injuries, padding its depth.

These new faces have allowed the Bobcats to surpass their 2022-23 win total on just their 18th game of the season. The record itself is not gaudy, but the improvement is clear.

As the season has continued and the Bobcats have started to solidify their place among their MAC peers, the team is playing for

more than wins. Making the MAC tournament and potentially going on a run would certainly be impressive, but Ohio has identified the pieces that will lead the program into its next chapter.

The freshman trio consisting of Monica Williams, Bailey Tabeling and Laylay Fantroy has started four straight games together, playing significant roles and making large contributions throughout the stretch.

The three are not the only keys to Ohio’s future either. Sophomore Jaya McClure has arguably been the Bobcats’ best offensive player when healthy, and freshmen Asiah Baxter and Emma Barnett will have the opportunity to step into bigger roles for the team moving forward.

Of course, optimism and the promise of future success alone will not guarantee it. The pessimist would look at the teams atop the MAC and see groups that are simply further ahead of the Bobcats. It is impossible to guarantee success or wins, but every team will eventually have to retool. They will have down seasons, maybe even more than a few, but for the Bobcats, the talent and promise that lines this new-look roster fuels the optimism that success is in the near future.

This is a team that has experienced turnarounds as well. In Boldon’s first season as Ohio’s head coach, the team went just 9-21 but followed up in 2014-15 by going 27-5, winning the MAC and landing a spot in the NCAA tournament.

With all this to look forward to, the optimist suddenly seems the more reasonable of the two parties. While the pessimist isn’t wrong to see the Bobcats’ record as less than ideal, it’s a short-sighted and limited view of a team that possesses a future as bright as the Bobcats’.

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Ohio’s big sister

Kate Dennis leads younger teammates off the court

Kate Dennis and her sister, Sara, couldn’t be any different in terms of how they’ve decided to spend their collegiate careers. While Dennis is working on her game in The Convo, her sister is 395 miles away studying to be a neurosurgeon at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Despite their very different fields of choice, comparing challenges and celebrating high points with her sister has helped Dennis develop into a leader in Ohio’s young locker room.

“We both have our challenges and different ways of motivating each other,” Dennis said. “If (I) don’t have the greatest performance or if (she does not) do the best on a test just being able to put it in perspective for each other and be there for each other (is important) because we’re both extremely close.”

Dennis’ ability to adapt to the needs of different personalities on the team has helped her to maintain a leadership role in a locker room that is constantly changing. She is a rare four-season player on the roster. This season, Ohio boasts seven new players: five freshmen and two transfers, replacing the seven faces that departed after last season.

“Learning how to motivate different people based on what they’re motivated by or what they’re passionate about, that’s something I’ve been able to learn from (my sister),” Dennis said.

Being a leader and taking on this “big sister” role for the Bobcats has not been something that Dennis is taking on because she has to – it is something she has grown to love. Learning the intricacies of each person in the locker room allows her to take care of her younger teammates or those simply getting acclimated to their new team.

“I think it’s fun to see that not everybody is the same,” Dennis said. “That’s been something that’s helped me in a leadership role, and I love being a big sister.”

The big sister role has almost come to Dennis by default, but it is one she has seemingly been made for. The abundant youth on the team come from all over and have played many different styles of basketball before converging at The Convo.

I think it’s fun to see that not everybody is the same. That’s been something that’s helped me in a leadership role, and I love being a big sister.”

– Kate Dennis, guard in her fourth year with the team

Because of this, the adjustments the freshmen have had to make are beyond the adjustments every new college student has to make when just learning to be far away from home. They have to learn to play within Ohio Coach Bob Boldon’s system, and helping them get comfortable and remain calm is a role that Dennis has filled naturally.

“I like to think that I bring a calming, positive sense to my teammates,” Dennis said. “With that experience that I have, I think that it helps everybody think to take a deep breath … Having such a young team, that’s so important because things can be so overwhelming.”

This calming presence could be part of why Dennis said this is the team that she feels the most connected to out of her four seasons with Ohio.

Ohio still sits just outside the Mid-American Conference tournament. While the team sits just 7-16 on the season, their goals of making it past the regular season may still come to fruition.

Keeping her own eyes, as well as her teammates’ eyes on the bright spots of the season has been a challenge but a successful one thus far. What the Bobcats have been able to foster in aiding this, though, is rather simple: trust.

“It’s such a new team; trust is so huge because everything is so new,” Dennis said. “I think that building that trust has been something that we’ve been able to lean into and that I hope we continue to keep leaning into.”



LOGAN ADAMS FOR THE POST Kate Dennis during the Ohio game against Buffalo, Jan. 31, 2024. (MORGAN CLARK | FOR THE POST)


Setting a foundation for success

In its inaugural year, Men’s Club Basketball looks to establish future success

At the heart of every high school athlete, there is a desire to continue playing their sport at the next level. For some lucky, talented individuals, that dream becomes a reality. Unfortunately, the percentage of players that get the opportunity to play at the collegiate level is small. However, for some, there are ways to keep playing their respective sport without being on the varsity team.

In its first season, Ohio University Men’s Club Basketball looks to give opportunities to those who did not get the chance to play in college.

Daniel DiBernardino, a junior studying marketing, is at the head of the team as the head coach and club president. DiBernadino’s goal in creating the team was to provide a place for students to continue their passion for basketball in a more laid-back environment while maintaining the competitiveness of sports.

The team, in its infancy, is a part of the NCBBA, the organization that oversees all club basketball, both men’s and women’s, across the country.

Unlike intramural sports, the level of competition and intensity is higher in club sports. While intramural sports play against other teams at OU, club sports will face competition from other colleges.

The entire process of creating the team boiled down to DiBernardino putting his passion into action. Noticing that there was no Men’s Club Basketball team, DiBernardino decided to take it upon himself to start one.

“I just wanted to play basketball and continue my basketball career in

college,” DiBernardino said. “I noticed my freshman year that we can have a team. For some years, (I) was scared to still join groups or stuff like that. As I moved further along in college, I wanted to get this college basketball thing started.”

DiBernardino explained that although he has an affinity for playing the game, he made the choice to be on the sidelines rather than the court out of fairness to the team. He did not want to put himself automatically on the team simply because he was Club President.

Alex Gebers, the assistant director of Competitive Sports and Community Programming, has aided DiBernardino in setting up the season and overall team structure.

Although the team is in its first year of existence, the first year of playing games will come next year. All teams in Competitive Sports are forced to begin with a single-year probation period.

The goal of the probation period, according to Gebers, is that the team can prove it can be self-sufficient. In the first year of existence, the team will fundraise and try to make money for a sustainable future. At the end of that year, if the team has proven to be self-sufficient then it will proceed to playing games.

Aside from making money for the team, there has to be an actual team in order to get off the ground. In this case, DiBernardino did all that he could to recruit players to join the team.

One of the players, Giacomo Pegan, a freshman studying sports management, saw a flyer for the team and said his interest piqued. Pegan played basketball in high school at Fayetteville-Perry, just outside of Cincinnati.

“As soon as I moved into college, every single person that I met and became friends with, I told them that I wanted to play basketball here,” Pegan said. “... I was hoping there was going to be a club (team) and when I didn’t see it, I was very upset and bummed. One day, somebody posted on the OU Snapchat story saying they’re having tryouts … I needed to try out for sure.”

As anyone who leads a student organization knows, there is a struggle to gain the respect of the members. DiBernardino has wrestled with this issue as being friends with some of the players does him no favors in earning their respect as their coach.

“I think being close in age has helped us create a stronger bond,” DiBernardino said. “I don’t know if they see me as a coach or a friend, but I hope they can see me as both.”

One of the things working in the favor of both DiBernardino and Gebers is the fact that there is a Women’s Club Basketball team at OU. The successful club team acts as a roadmap for DiBernardino and Gebers to establish the presence of the Men’s Club Basketball team.

“(The Women’s Club Basketball team) is a guide,” Gebers said. “Because they are the same sport and both have the same governing body of the NCBBA … I am going to make sure that when I communicate that with the Women’s team, I am now going to communicate it with the Men’s team. With fundraising, what has worked for the women’s team? With new jerseys, where did we get them? How much did they cost? I can now share that information with the men’s team, so it is very similar when it comes to those things.”

With a year to prepare for the first season, DiBernardino, Pegan and the rest of the roster will look to sharpen their play on the court while gaining notoriety off the court. The goal is to win; everything else goes out the window when the ball is in the air for the opening tip for Ohio Men’s Club Basketball.

20 / FEBRUARY 22, 2024
The Men’s Club Basketball team, photo provided by the team.

3 point sh ts

22 / FEBRUARY 22, 2024
The Marching 110 plays the fight song for OU during the game against Miami University at The Convo, Feb. 3, 2024. (JACK TATHAM | FOR THE POST) Kennedi Watkins (5) during the Ohio Women’s Basketball game against Eastern Michigan at The Convo, Jan. 10, 2024. (SKYLAR SEVAEY | FOR THE POST) Jaya McClure (0) shoots a three pointer for Ohio University to make a slight come back during the fourth quarter of their home matchup against Texas State University, Feb 10, 2023 at the Convo in Athens, Ohio. The final score was 71-80, Texas (KRYSTEN O’NEILL | FOR THE POST) Ohio guard, Asiah Baxter (22), awaits teammates for player introductions at The Convo, in Athens, Ohio on Jan. 31, 2024. (JOE HALLQUIST | FOR THE POST) Ohio guard Bengisu Alper (33) moves on the court during a game against Ball State at The Convo, Feb. 17, 2024, in Athens.(ABBIE KINNEY | ART DIRECTOR)

History of The Convo

It’s hard to forget the first time you drive down Richland Avenue onto the Ohio University campus, whether it be for a campus tour or the first day of your freshman year; the view of campus from the highway is undeniably beautiful.

Driving down that hill, a couple of things catch your eye. Whether it be Peden Stadium, the Hocking River, or the luscious greenery cascading over the mountains, one thing is impossible to miss — that huge circular brick building that defines the Ohio University horizon.

That building, labeled The Convo, has stood at the foot of that hill for 56 years since opening in 1968.

For 56 years, The Convo has acted as a hub for Ohio Athletics while also serving various other purposes.

Some of Ohio’s biggest wins in any sport have occurred at The Convo. The 13,000seat arena has been sold out a handful of times for men’s basketball games. Many of the greatest matchups in the historic “Battle of the Bricks” between Ohio and Miami have been played in front of a sold-out arena.

The very first sporting event ever hosted at The Convo was a matchup between Ohio and Indiana on Dec. 3, 1968, a game in which Ohio came from behind to win 80-70. In fact, Ohio won 35 of its first 37 home games inside The Convo.

Feb. 28, 1970, just two years after the opening of the arena, Ohio broke the atten-

dance record at any Mid-American Conference Basketball game when 14,102 fans witnessed the team clinch a conference title over Bowling Green.

In terms of famous athletes, The Convo has hosted Ohio legends like Gary Trent, Dave Jamerson and Jason Preston. Jamerson broke the school record for points scored in a game inside The Convo when he scored 60 points in a single game against Charleston during the 1989 season.

Many see The Convo as a home to Ohio’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, the wrestling team and the volleyball team, but for some students, The Convo is their actual home at Ohio. Interestingly, The Convo has a handful of dorm rooms within its walls.

The historic building also hosted a slew of concerts in the later decades of the 20th century. Current-day students would be surprised to hear that The Convo once hosted the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Led Zepplin and Billy Joel.

The first-ever concert held inside The Convo was during homecoming weekend in 1968 when legendary folk duo Simon and Garfunkel performed in front of a sold-out crowd.

Ohio students' academic careers ceremoniously begin and end at The Convo. From freshman opening ceremonies to graduation commencement, many students share incredibly special moments within The Convo’s walls.

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