This will be Buckeye fans’ first look at the redshirt freshman.
As the basketball offseason continues and we move into the fall, Land-Grant Holy Land will put out our basketball player and team previews. There will be two previews per week leading all the way into the start of the season, starting with player previews.
Last time we finished up the incoming transfers with Tanner Holden. This time around, we are taking a look at redshirt freshman Kalen Etzler.
Name: Kalen Etzler
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Crestview High School
Class: Redshirt Freshman
2021-22 stats: N/A
It is Etzler’s second season in Columbus, but will be his first season suiting up and contributing for Ohio State. Etzler redshirted last season after graduating high school and getting to Columbus.
“I just thought to myself, I might take a year off with (all) the seniors coming in and save a year of eligibility and then when I come in as a freshman hopefully have some freshman accolades,” Etzler told the Columbus Dispatch about redshirting. “It’s definitely tough, especially coming in with guys I hope I could play with and get a taste of some games, even if they’re just a couple beginning-of-season games, but I know it’s the best thing for me.”
Etzler redshirted to improve his overall strength and defense.
“Obviously strength, and defense is probably No. 2,” he said about what he wanted to improve upon. “I’ve got to learn a lot of the sayings on defense and different ball screens and all that stuff, and obviously I’ve gotta remember the plays. I’m going to take this time to talk to all of the seniors that we have, all the veterans, and just try to mentally improve my game.”
Coming into Ohio State, Etzler was listed as a three-star recruit and the No. 4 player in the state of Ohio in the 2021 class. Nationally, he was no. 158 and the no. 31 ranked power forward. He held offers from Duquesne, Miami (OH) and Bowling Green and visited Purdue and Iowa.
Etzler was an impressive high school player, averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per game during his senior season at Crestview High School. As a sophomore, he helped Crestview win a state championship, and his junior season he earned second team All-Ohio honors and first team All-Northwest Ohio honors after averaging 17.9 points per game.
One thing that Etzler has talked about over the summer is his improved fitness and shooting.
“I put on about 15 pounds and most of it is willpower strength, mental strength,” he said after playing at the Kingdom Summer League at Ohio Dominican University to the Columbus Dispatch’s Adam Jardy. “I’m playing at 190 now, so obviously I’m not the biggest dude but I compete as hard as I can.”
He also mentioned that he has mirrored his game around Kaleb Wesson’s and the type of player Wesson was.
“I don’t know what level he was at as a freshman coming in, but I’m a little rough right now,” he said. “My length helps me a lot. Sometimes I’ll get beat and can block some shots, but the way he moves his feet gives me hope that I can get to that level and become an elite defender kind of like him.”
Consistency is something he us searching for in his first season on the court.
“It’s getting those types of reps up that really helped me and it helps me get my shot off in practice a lot quicker,” he said. “I’m comfortable shooting it. It’s the same thing every time.”
“As soon as the season ended in March, and I had nothing but free time I’d go to the gym 2-3 times a day,” Etzler added. “I was getting up anywhere from 500-1,000 shots a day and it was daily. I was going Monday through Sunday, all seven days.”
Etzler is somewhat of an unknown because he redshirted last season, and because of Malaki Branham heading to the NBA, Etzler is the only recruit left in Columbus from the 2021 class. He is a tall, lanky scorer who can defend well and knock down shots.
As he has said, a lot of his production and minutes will come down to how much he improved during his redshirt season. A stretch four can always be valuable to a team, and Etzler is the only player on this team with that specific skill set as of right now. If he has improved his strength and his shot, he could see increasingly meaningful minutes off the bench and really be a key piece to this Buckeyes team.