What Makes Isaac Likekele One of Ohio State’s Best Basketball Players

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A year like no other is about to begin in Ohio State.

A year after a roster bolstered by players benefiting from the extra year of eligibility offered to anyone who played despite the COVID-19 pandemic surpassing 15 members, the 2022-23 Buckeyes will be a team facing unprecedented turnover. With coach Chris Holtmann enters his sixth seasona combination of early NBA departures, college eligibility exhaustion and transfer portal lure all combined to create a roster with just two players who played at least three games for Ohio State last season .

That’s not to say there aren’t familiar faces in Columbus. They are simply outnumbered by a freshman class of five men, ranked among the best in the Big Ten, and a three-man transfer class that combine to make up more than half of the roster. These new faces, combined with a few veterans, will be looking to top their predicted sixth-place finish in the preseason media poll and find a way to win Ohio State’s first Sweet 16 since the 2012-13 season.

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Before the Buckeyes start the year with an exhibition against Chaminade on November 1 and the season opener against Robert Morris on November 6, The Dispatch will produce its annual report list of pre-season individual power rankings. These rankings are an educated guess at which players will have the most impact on the pitch over the course of the entire season, and which will feature each player on the list.

We hit the top three with fifth-year Oklahoma State transfer guard Isaac Likekele.

No. 3 – Isaac “Ice” Likekele

Position: Guard/forward

Eligibility: Fifth year graduate (none remaining)

Size weight: 6 feet 5 / 215 pounds

Jersey number: 13

Major: Early Childhood Education

Background

After accomplishing a bit of everything in four years at Oklahoma State, Isaac Likekele will end his career with a season at Ohio State. Born in Charlotte, Likekele moved with his family to Arlington, Texas, where he was a three-star point guard in the Class of 2018 who originally signed up at Fresno State to play for coach Rodney Terry until that he leaves to take the same job at UTEP. . His recruitment reopened, he chose to sign with the last program to offer him a scholarship: Oklahoma State.

During that time, Likekele led Mansfield Timberview to the 2017 Texas 5A State Championship. The following year, he was named All-State and District First-Team MVP after averaging 18.0 points, 9 .0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, foreshadowing the all-around play that would make him one of the most accomplished individual players in Cowboys history. He was a three-star prospect in the 2018 class according to composite database 247Sports.com, which listed him as the No. 156 national rookie, No. 26 point guard in the nation and No. 10 Texas player.

When he graduated in 2022, Likekele left campus as the first player to reach 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 400 assists. In between, Likekele was named an honorable mention All-Big 12 in his sophomore and junior seasons and was an all-conference academic selection as a junior.

In four years with the Cowboys, Likekele averaged 8.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals in 31.3 minutes per game. He shot 47.6 percent from the floor (364 for 764) but was only 27.9 percent (19 for 68) from 3-point range and 62.0 percent (230 for 371) from the line.

Summary 2021-22

Oklahoma State collectively took a step back during Likekele’s senior season, going from a 21-9 record and an NCAA Tournament exit in the second round to a 15-15 season played under the specter of a postseason ban that stemmed from the 2017 FBI investigation into the university. basketball. The NCAA originally banned the Cowboys from the 2020 playoffs, but the university appealed and was allowed to participate until a final decision is made on November 3, 2021 – six days before the season opener. against UT-Arlington.

The Cowboys got off to a 6-1 start but lost six of their next nine games and needed two wins in their last two games to reach .500 for the season. In his last game with the program, Likekele started, played 19 minutes, and had 5 points, four rebounds, and an assist as Oklahoma State upset Texas Tech 52-51 on March 5.

Likekele finished the season averaging 7.1 points, his career low, while also hitting a career low of 43.7% from the floor. He averaged 5.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals in 30.9 minutes per game. Statistically, KenPom.com compared his production to former Purdue guard Rapheal Davis’ 2014-15 season, a year in which he was named an honorable mention All-Big Ten and was voted defensive player of the year by coaches.

In the process, he became the 44th player in Oklahoma State history to surpass the 1,000 career point mark. He intercepted multiple steals in 14 of his team’s 30 games and flirted with a triple-double against Iowa State on Jan. 26, finishing with 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds in an overtime loss.

When he entered the portal, Likekele was rated a five star and the No. 19 player overall according to EvanMiya.com as well as a player with more defensive advantages than offensive.

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ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla dubbed Likekele the “linebacker to point guard” for his physical style of play. His name is “Ice” and not his first name. The nickname was given to him as a freshman in high school and stuck with him. Likekele lists Isaiah 41:10 among his favorite Bible verses.

While at Oklahoma State, Likekele was selected to play with USA Basketball at the 2019 FIBA ​​U19 Basketball World Cup in Greece, where he averaged 8.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.7 steals to help the Americans win gold. Likekele was teammate there with Cade Cunningham, his eventual Oklahoma State teammate for the 2020-21 season before being named No. 1 overall in the NBA draft.

“Honestly, I don’t think about it too much,” Likekele said of his time with Team USA. “I always think about the future and the present, where I am right now. I still talk to Cade all the time. He’s my guy. Obviously, we went to school together and he’s been my guy forever. It was good to see all these young boys doing their thing and growing up. I still talk to some of them, but it’s nothing but love. Always rooted for them.

During summer, Likekele used his social media presence to shine the spotlight on the graduates. He sent autographed shirts and shoes to two winners from a list of about 2,000 entrants who had to prove they had graduated from any grade level. He signed a NIL contract with The O Foundation, a collective founded by alumnus Ron Stokes to specifically aid the men’s basketball program.

Likekele was recruited in high school by current Ohio State assistant coach Mike Netti, who at the time was recruiting him as an assistant at East Carolina. His teammates voted him one of the top two passers on this year’s list.

Outlook for the 2022-23 season

That is to say that Likekele was elected team captain despite first arriving on campus during the summer and never playing a game in an Ohio State uniformMr. The Buckeyes will rely on the presence of veterans to provide leadership, anchor their defensive abilities and play in multiple positions on a rebuilt roster.

Part of what made Likekele such an attractive player on the Portal was his ability to play in multiple positions. Yes, he’ll split the time as freshman Bruce Thornton acclimates to Division I basketball, but he’s also physical and big enough to log minutes in the paint as the undersized big. also.

What will this breakdown look like? Right now, that seems to be up for debate.

“When we brought him to Oklahoma State, his coaches said, ‘Coach, he’ll be able to go 1-5 unless you have a big center in your league,’ which obviously we do,” said Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann. “Apart from those towering presences, he’ll be able to keep 1-5 down, so we’ve tried to assess that and put him in positions.”

Likekele scored 8 points and grabbed five rebounds in Ohio State’s two exhibition games in the Bahamas and added four assists while shooting 50.0 percent (6 for 12) from the floor.

Holtmann said this pre-season that Likekele must remain committed to constantly improving every day as he enters his final season, and for four years he hasn’t shown much ability to knock down jumpers. That aside, his skills and physical attributes make him unique on this list and one that should be a big factor in the Buckeyes’ success in 2022-23.

“Honestly, we’ll see over time,” Likekele said on the Big Ten media day. “I just go out there and do what I’m asked to do, which is attack from multiple angles, from the perimeter, from the post. They just ask me to be aggressive and be who I am, which is to say do it all, full game.

Further Reading

Isaac Likekele: Charisma, Bible Verses and Jersey Giveaways: Meet Isaac “Ice” Likekele from Ohio State

Isaac LikekeleOn trip to the Bahamas, Ohio State’s Isaac Likekele and Sean McNeil take leadership action

Isaac Likekele: Five key plays: Bruce Thornton’s two-way game shines in Ohio State win over Puerto Rico

Isaac Likekele: At NIL event in Lifetown, Ohio State players bond with kids learning real-world skills

Ohio State Buckeyes: As practice begins, a looming question for every Ohio State player

Previous power rankings

No. 4 – Bruce Thornton

No. 5 – Brice Sensabaugh

#6 – Gene Brown III

No. 7 – Sean McNeil

No. 8 – Tanner Holden

No. 9 – Roddy Gayle

N°10 – Felix Okpara

No. 11 – Kalen Etzler

No. 12 – Bowen Hardman

No. 13 – Owen Spencer

No. 14 – Colby Baumann

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

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