Offutt, 2-time transfer, finds home at Ohio

R.B. FALLSTROM AP Sports Writer Published:

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The college hopping suggests that Ohio guard Walter Offutt has always had one foot out the door.

The junior found his niche playing for a coach who's gotten him to commit twice.

"Obviously, I've been through a couple stops," Offutt said Thursday, a day before the 13th-seeded Bobcats play top-seeded North Carolina in the Midwest Regional. "It's been a tremendous experience and I can't thank these guys enough, and to thank God enough for putting me in the right place."

John Groce recruited Offutt out of high school in Indianapolis, Ind., in 2009 when he was an assistant to Ohio State coach Thad Matta. The 6-3 Offutt became an ex-Buckeye as a sophomore after totaling 29 points in 23 games in a little more than one season, transferring to Wright State. Then he was ready to move on again after a coaching change.

Groce, who was waiting at Ohio, calls Offutt a born leader.

Offutt has started all 36 games, is second on the team in minutes and is averaging 12 points. He's coming off one of his best games of the season, going 4-for-4 from 3-point range and scoring 21 points in a victory over South Florida that put the school in the round of 16.

In Ohio's upset of Michigan in the round of 64, he had a key block and then made two free throws in the closing seconds to clinch a 65-60 victory.

"I used the phrase in the last week or two with him that I've tabbed him as the culture changer," Groce said. "And I mean that with all sincerity.

"He is the epitome of what a student-athlete's supposed to be, both on and off the court."

Because Offutt has transferred twice, Groce said he jokes, "Walt, heck, you're older than me."

"So he's like an old, wise man," Groce said. "And he does a great job of connecting with people, cares about people and obviously is a big part of what we do."

Even though it didn't work out at Ohio State, Offutt believes that big-game atmosphere and playing with the likes of Evan Turner, David Lighty and William Buford should serve him well against North Carolina.

"Obviously, I didn't play much but I think I took a lot in from those guys," Offutt said. "I think it really prepared me as far as my leadership role and the ability to lead on this team."


MUSKETEER IN BLUEGRASS LAND: Xavier coach Chris Mack says it's easy to blend into his northern Kentucky neighborhood, a short drive from the Musketeers' campus in Cincinnati.

He said it's inevitable that he has Kentucky fans as neighbors.

"You can't live in Kentucky and not live next to a Kentucky fan," Mack said Thursday. "It's impossible. They've got a passionate fan base. It's nice because I can sort of slip in and be anonymous and do my deal."

Mack has even managed to sway some Kentucky fans to take on at least a partial interest in Xavier.

"I've converted a couple of them, and they're half Xavier, half Kentucky," Mack said. "Probably 51 percent Kentucky, 49 percent Xavier."

But what happens if Xavier beats Baylor and Kentucky beats Indiana in Friday night's South Regional semifinals? What would Mack's neighbors say if Xavier were to play Kentucky in Sunday's regional final?

"I wouldn't care how they felt if we won two games here this weekend," Mack said with a laugh, before adding, "I don't know if my house would be standing."


HOOPS HOTBED: Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger won't be getting a whole lot of sleep the next couple of days. Not that he's going to complain.

His second-seeded men's team plays No. 11 seed North Carolina State on Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals in St. Louis. On Saturday morning, he'll hop on a plane with other members of the school administration and jet to Des Moines to watch the women's team play.

The No. 11 seed Jayhawks play No. 2 seed Tennessee at 11 a.m. local time.

"The chancellor bought into it," Zenger said with a laugh. "So we're going to be here, head up to Des Moines and, hopefully, come back here."

The only other programs that have men's and women's teams still alive in the NCAA tournament are Baylor and Kentucky.

The job that the Kansas women's team's done hasn't gone unnoticed, either. Player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson said he's been keeping tabs on coach Bonnie Henrickson's team.

"Our girls are playing good," he said. "They're playing with a lot of confidence right now."


AP Sports Writers Dave Skretta and Charles Odum contributed to this report.