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March 24, 2011

Humble Weatherspoon rejoins Bucks

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NEWARK, N.J. - A week ago J.D. Weatherspoon was at home while Ohio State was in Cleveland for its opening games of the of the NCAA Tournament.

Thursday, a day after Thad Matta announced the freshman had regained his academic eligibility, Weatherspoon sat in the New Jersey Devils' locker room, having made the trip to the Sweet 16 with the top-seeded Buckeyes.

"It's good to be back," Weatherspoon said Thursday, a day before Ohio State's game against No. 4-seeded Kentucky Friday night. "It couldn't have come at a more perfect time."

Affectionately known as the "baby" of the freshman class because he was the last player to turn 18 of the group, Weatherspoon became academically ineligible after his first quarter at Ohio State, causing him to miss more than half of his first season as a Buckeye.

In the months since his academic ineligibility was announced, Weatherspoon said he worked diligently to rejoin his team in a full capacity. He was available for practice, but was unable to travel or take part in games with Ohio State.

"It was one math class," Weatherspoon said. "I didn't take math my last year of high school, so that messed me up going into college math. This quarter I (did well) in the class and it really feels good to be back.

"My main focus has been to get back on track with my grades and I feel really good about that accomplishment," he continued.

Shortly after the news broke that Weatherspoon would not be with the team, every member of the squad reached out to the freshman in some capacity to encourage him to strive to get return.

Whether it was a senior like Dallas Lauderdale or a freshman like Deshaun Thomas, everyone had a consistent message: mistakes happen, it is what a person does after that makes all the difference.

"He realized that he made a mistake, he has been bringing it in practice every day, and he's been encouraging us when we're on the road with text messages and stuff," Lauderdale said. "I think he's done a great job handling the situation and it is great to have him back. We feel more like a complete team right now."

Ohio State assistant coach Dave Dickerson understood the situation, but admitted it is wake-up calls like become inelgibile that help players continue to grow both in and out of the classroom.

Weatherspoon wasn't a big part of the rotation this season, but losing his eligibility was something Dickerson feels hit close to home for the freshman.

"I think when you go through those situations it can be a good or a bad thing," Dickerson said. "I think in this situation even though basketball had been taken away from him from a competitive standpoint and game situation, it was a good thing.

"It got him refocused and that's probably what he needed. To be refocused as a student is important and since that casualty, he's been a model student. He's getting better, getting stronger, and he's paying more attention to the details in and out of the classroom."

Weatherspoon acknowledged he wasn't pleased with himself when he fell short in the classroom, citing disappointment from his parents as another motivation to get his grades back in order.

For Weatherspoon the mistake is gone and in the past.

"It's only a mistake if you make it twice," he said. "I don't plan on doing that."

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



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