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January 8, 2011

Lighty going for record Sunday

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - David Lighty didn't have a counter in his locker for when he'd get to 111 career wins at Ohio State, but he had an idea he was getting pretty close to becoming the record holder for most career victories as a Buckeye.

"When you stick around for 20 years, you're going to win enough games," Lighty joked.

As the only remaining player on the current roster from Ohio State's 2007 Final Four team, Lighty feels as if he has been a Buckeye for two decades. For Ohio State head coach Thad Matta, Lighty sports the maturity and leadership you'd expect from a player that has such experience.

So when the No. 2 Buckeyes take the floor against Minnesota at Value City Arena on Sunday in the Big Ten Conference opener - which could be the game Lighty earns the record for most career victories as a Buckeye - Matta couldn't think of a more appropriate player to hold that honor.

"I have said this, I think David Lighty will go down as the most underrated player to ever play at Ohio State," Matta said Friday. "The things that he brings to this program, all the intangibles he brings, he is definitely one of my all-time favorites that I've coached anywhere."

Lighty got off to a quick start at Ohio State in winning as a freshman, as he was a part of the team with Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. that advanced all the way to the national title game before losing to Florida. That season, Lighty and his teammates recorded 35 wins.

In his sophomore and junior seasons, Lighty recorded 53 more wins. In the 2008-09 season, Lighty recorded seven wins before breaking his right foot and missing the remainder of the regular season before becoming a medical redshirt.

Lighty is currently tied with former Buckeyes Mark Titus and Danny Peters for most wins at 110. Those records were set last season.

"It has been great teams that I have played on with great teammates," said the 6-foot-5 native of Cleveland. "My freshman year kind of gave me a head start, so hopefully this year we continue like we did then."

The Buckeyes (15-0, 2-0 Big Ten) seem to be on track to repeating what Ohio State was able to do in Lighty's freshman season, though Matta will point out it is far too early to point out such a fact.

But there's one thing Matta and the rest of the team won't shove to the side, and that's Lighty's value to the success of this team, which spans far outside what's seen in the box score.

Lighty - who is just 10 rebounds away from joining only former Buckeyes Evan Turner and Jim Jackson to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 300 assists - would certainly be regarded as "underrated" by his teammates, as well.

"I see how good Dave is every day in practice, so I know he's a great player," Diebler said. "The one thing about Dave is that he makes everyone else around him better, just from the time that I have been here.

"He does things that don't always show up in the stat book, but when you watch film, just the ground he covers on defense. It didn't show a steal or a rebound, but what he does to disrupt players on the defensive end is unbelievable," he continued. "He is one of the better players we have had here. He may not average the most points, rebounds, assists, or steals, but he is a guy we have to have on the court because of the intangibles he brings."

Lighty has made a name for himself as somewhat of a utility player this season, which is something that he said his middle school coach helped him realize was a necessity. Matta trusts that Lighty has the ability to recognize what his team needs the most in situations, and the senior has provided those things.

There have been games this season where Lighty has been the team's primary scorer, but others where he is far from sporting the most impressive stat-line. But as one of the team's best on-ball defenders, Lighty's value doesn't go unnoticed in any game.

This is the way Lighty has played for years.

"I started becoming (this) way in middle school from my coach Myron Jackson," Lighty said of his game. "Going into high school he told me guys are going to be stronger and more athletic than (me), quicker, things like that so you have to find ways to be more effective on the court. I think that's really when I started changing my mindset in becoming a complete player and I think that's what really helped me to do that."

Lighty credits his mother for infusing a competitive nature within him, which could be the reason the basketball player has become so accustomed to winning. Whether it was bowling or shooting pool, Lighty's mom always encouraged her son to strive to be the best.

But just like Lighty does on the basketball court, he understands that winning isn't something that is done alone. And just like he has done in the past, Lighty credited the coaching staff and his teammates for putting him in this position.

For now, Lighty will settle for the record. But in the end, he hopes to have achieved the ultimate goal with his teammates in his final season of a long run as a Buckeye.

"Winning is something that was kind of inside me, instilled in me," Lighty said, "but I couldn't go out there and do it by myself. With so many great players who have been here, to have my name in the record books with the most wins is an honor for me."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.



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