Catch him if you can: McGuff searching far, wide for future Buckeyes

If you want to know what goes into building a national powerhouse in women’s basketball, just ask Kevin McGuff about a September travel schedule that has taken him to every region of the country.

East Coast, West Coast, Southeast and, yep, back here in the Midwest.

The hometown news organization of the Ohio State women’s basketball coach hoped to have a nice sit-down interview with the Badin alumnus in his office in Columbus prior to the team’s annual Media Day on Thursday but soon found that would be impossible.

Too many prime prospects to visit and too few days to do it.

Such is the life of a coach trying to wake a sleeping giant of a program.

“I’ve been out… I don’t even know how many days,” McGuff said on his way to Memphis from Atlanta after a trip to northern Virginia, “but most of them.”

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On the eve of his fourth season in Columbus, McGuff has already done quite a bit to put the Buckeyes back in the national discussion, but there is still more to do.

After two straight second-place finishes in the Big Ten regular season standings and a Sweet 16 appearance last year, Ohio State appears to be primed to contend for a conference championship and a trip to the Final Four.

But don’t ask McGuff about that.

“I’m gonna not even get into as much of that as maybe we have in the past and really focus in more just sticking to our process and focus on that just to make sure we continue to improve,” he said. “Because I think that will take care of itself with where we want to go and what we want to accomplish.”

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After his team sat primed to claim a conference title last year but lost its last two regular season games and with them the championship to Maryland then was hampered in the postseason by injuries, McGuff’s reticence is understandable.

That’s life in women’s basketball, where elite talent is necessary to compete with the UConns, Tennessees and Stanfords but a few injuries can quickly change a season’s trajectory.

Yet there’s no denying Ohio State’s roster headlined by national player of the year candidate Kelsey Mitchell, the junior point guard from Princeton High School, should be packed with big-time players.

Mitchell, guard Asia Doss and forwards Alexa Hart, Shayla Cooper and Fairmont grad Makayla Waterman return after playing prominent roles last season, but many new faces could be in the rotation this season as three highly rated transfers and three top 50 freshman all become eligible.

The newcomers include Stephanie Mavunga, an All-ACC forward two years ago at North Carolina, and Jensen Caretti, Ohio’s 2016 Miss Basketball.

It’s a lot for McGuff to come home to.

“That is going to allow us to play even faster and maybe rest some people a little more than it has in the past,” he said. “I think that will be really great for our kids. That’s also going to really create a competitive environment in practice and raise the level of play for everyone.”

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