Will a Leaner Kaleb Wesson Make the Leap to the NBA?

Adam Jardy
Kaleb Wesson grabs an offensive rebound during a game in December 2019.

The consensus was as personal as it was honest: The weight had to go.

Kaleb Wesson already kind of knew this, but first the Atlanta Hawks and then the Boston Celtics hammered it home following the Ohio State basketball star’s breakout sophomore season. When he worked out for the two NBA teams to get some much-desired feedback on his draft potential, he was flatly told to lose weight, become more explosive and expand his game. In short, if Wesson had any hopes of playing in the league, the Westerville native was going to have to give more of himself—literally—to the cause.

Before he even joined his OSU teammates last fall, Wesson showed off a new, trimmed-down frame on the court at South High School as part of the Kingdom Summer League. The 6-foot-9-inch forward had lost roughly 30 pounds, dropping from 289 to nearly 255, and had done so in short order.

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“He went to work,” says Renny Tyson, Wesson’s longtime trainer. “We grinded it out. He lost that weight before the summer.”

The hours spent sweating it out inside the Woodward Park Community Center also provided a new attitude for his junior year. After some games didn’t physically test him enough, he returned to the weight room at the Schottenstein Center to put in boxing rounds with strength and conditioning coach Quadrian Banks. The transformation led to the most well-rounded season of his career, one that saw him again lead the Buckeyes in scoring and rebounding but also 3-point shooting percentage.

The increased versatility of his game, combined with his new physique, has cemented him on the NBA’s radar. He’s widely projected as a mid-to-late second-round pick, despite fewer opportunities to show off his talents. The NCAA Tournament’s cancellation in March denied him a national platform to make a name for himself, especially after OSU had salvaged a tumultuous season and appeared poised to make a run. The Covid-19 outbreak also left the 2020 draft class without in-person workouts or a combine, robbing Wesson of chances to solidify himself on a team’s draft board. He signed with an agent, forgoing his remaining college eligibility, but even the draft itself was put on hold.

Still, Wesson could hardly sit back. During the early stages of the pandemic, his workouts were primarily pushups, situps and the like in the apartment he shared with his former teammate and older brother, Andre. Without access to standard workout equipment, the brothers jokingly called them “prison workouts.” Recently, the younger Wesson has been training in Houston alongside another ex-Buckeye, Jae’Sean Tate.

“The quarantine is really messing up the workouts and gym access,” Wesson said in late May. “That’s the worst thing. My mindset is to go through every day and get better; same thing I did at Ohio State.”

Getting to the pros was little more than a pipe dream as recently as two years ago, but at media day before his sophomore season, he was outspoken about his ambition. “I want to be in the NBA. I don’t want to be a G League player,” he said, referring to pro basketball’s minor leagues.

With the NBA lottery now planned for August and the draft in October, he’s working and waiting a little while longer, hoping for one more chance to prove himself. 


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Kaleb Wesson shoots over Nebraska Cornhuskers guard Matej Kavas during a game in January 2020.