COLUMBUS — When Kaleb Wesson showed up on Ohio State’s campus in the summer of 2017, he was listed at 6-foot-9, 290 pounds.
He was a four-star, homegrown recruited rated as the No. 75 overall player and No. 6 center in the country. His game and body had remanence of former Buckeye standout Jared Sullinger. Both were dominant and highly skilled big men, but they also struggled to stay in shape.
“Kaleb looks great,” head coach Chris Holtmann said. “He’s worked really hard at it. He’s shown tremendous discipline in terms of what he wanted his body to look like. The challenge for him will be to continue to move in that direction as we get throughout the season.”
Wesson has spent the last three years working at getting into the best shape possible. By the time his freshman season started, he was down to 270 pounds, which he’s played at for the last two years, mainly because the problem was more about his inability to keep off weight than it was losing it in the first place.
“In most offseasons, I feel like I’ve dropped weight and then gained it back,” Wesson said. “Just seeing that level of where I am now as far as where I was at the end of the year, I feel like it’s night and day…now it’s a lifestyle choice instead of just trying to drop weight for the summer or trying to drop weight for just the season.”
That lifestyle choice is why he has been able to go from a player who weighed 325 pounds as a high school junior, to 255 as a college junior. It was fulled by his time testing the NBA waters in the spring when he participated in workouts with the Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics. The key was finding a way to maintain the strength that allows him to operate in the post while also living healthier and playing at a lighter weight.
That decision also meant sacrificing many of his biggest vices for more than just a few months while dieting. He gave up drinking juice and soda and replaced it with more waster in his diet. He’s also taking food advice from his teammates. Musa Jallow once offered him a healthier snack option in the form of a kale chip, but that didn’t go over as well as other options.
“He gave me one of those, and I was like ‘No, I can’t eat this,’” Wesson said. “If this is what healthy is, then maybe I’m not there yet.”
The much-needed dietary changes have worked wonders as have the offseason workouts. But there is one activity in general that deserves the most credit for Wesson’s offseason body transformation, and he never had to step on the court to accomplish it.
“(Assistant director of strength and conditioning Quadrian Banks) puts him through a pretty strenuous post-practice boxing session,” Holtmann said. “It’s primarily against a pad. Kaleb loved it. I think he enjoyed it. That helped him stay in shape later on.”
Every so often, Wesson would get a chance to spar with Banks instead of just punching a pad. Though Holtmann joked that his junior big man had a clear advantage, making those sessions less of a challenge.
Off the court, the lifestyle change is evident in how he looks and feels daily. On it, the change provides a wide range of options to how the Buckeyes can approach a game. They can play faster now that their best player is in better shape. Holtmann stated that Wesson has always been a decent athlete laterally, but now that’s shown vertically as well.
Wesson is never going to be the type of player that jumps out of the gym, but he still had room to grow when he first arrived. He may not be a typical lob threat as a big, but he’s can at least put guys on a poster every now and then. According to his teammates, he’s already doing so in practice.
“He’s been getting up,” Luther Muhammad said with a smile on his face. “He’s been dunking on guys.”