The present-day Evan Ravenel cannot imagine a day where he's not grabbing a rebound or playing tough defense in the paint. There's a slighter older version of himself, however, that figured by now that he'd be attacking life without a basketball in his hand.
He was two years into his collegiate career at Boston College when head coach Al Skinner was fired, serving as the unceremonious breakup to the family Ravenel had grown to love on the court.
It was tough to have the attitude to want to play anymore after what happened at BC," Ravenel said during Ohio State's annual Media Day on Oct. 11. "I never lost the love for the game while I was at BC. It just didn't feel the same it always did toward the end of my time there."
Ravenel was reluctant to talk about the days when he was considering waking up in the morning for reasons other than basketball. Since completing his transfer to Ohio State to play for head coach Thad Matta two years ago, Ravenel's outlook on life is completely different.
Now in line to be a main contributor for the Buckeyes in the paint during his final season, Ravenel hasn't wasted a single opportunity to become a better player.
It's not that he fears the day when he won't be able to play the game he loves anymore. He just recognizes now, more than ever, what it means for him to be a basketball player.
Or, more importantly, what it means to be a Buckeye.
"Being here and seeing what we do here and the kind of attention to detail Coach Matta has with his players and the type of relationship we have with our coaches, that feeling came back," Ravenel said. "That excitement to play the game – I felt it again. Being here made me not want to ever be in a situation where basketball isn't in my life. Basketball just became fun again."
After sitting out the 2010-11 season per NCAA transfer rules, Ravenel played an instrumental role in Ohio State's run to the Final Four a year ago. Though he sat behind sophomore Jared Sullinger – an eventual first-round NBA draft pick by the Boston Celtics – Ravenel averaged 10.2 minutes per game and appeared in every contest.
He wasn't just a typical role player. Because Sullinger's foul status was often very important to the way Matta approached the game plan, Ravenel always had to be ready to relieve the All-America center as quickly as the referee could blow his whistle. Though Ravenel's time on the court wasn't always for long spans, it was vital that he maintained the same level of play in the paint that Sullinger provided.
That obviously wasn't an easy task given the level at which Sullinger played the game, but helping the Buckeyes stay afloat without their starting center on the floor was exactly what the 6-8, 250-pound big man was called upon to do.
"Evan took his time in the game very seriously," sophomore center Amir Williams said. "We knew that we had to keep playing our game with Jared out, and I think Evan did a good job of keeping us within ourselves when Jared got into foul trouble."
Ravenel's statistics don't jump off the page and by his own admission, he's trying to become a bigger offensive threat. As a junior, he averaged 3.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per contest. Sometimes it was a single bucket or rebound that made all the difference.
"I just did whatever I could do to help us win last year," Ravenel said. "We all knew how good of a player Jared was. It wasn't a secret. But when I got into the game, I did everything in my power to play well."
Improvement from the senior is a must for the Buckeyes, who will count on Ravenel for extended minutes this season. Though he's currently battling for time with Williams, the senior seems to be in line for starter-like minutes.
Without Sullinger, Ohio State will likely be a more guard-oriented team, one that likes to get up and down the floor as quickly as possible while pushing the tempo to create easy buckets in transition. Ravenel isn't worried about keeping up.
"I think I am at my best when we're getting up and down the floor," he said. "I love being more active and constantly moving. I actually feel like when I am standing still it is easier to get complacent."
The inside-out game won't be completely gone, but Ravenel knows the Buckeyes will be a different team this year. As the squad's lone senior, not to mention the most experienced big man, he's aware of the importance his role will have on how things go for Ohio State this season.
"I take my role as a senior very seriously and I know how important the example I set is," Ravenel said. "Without having Jared on the roster, it will be a challenge because he was probably the most dominant big man in the country last year.
"But this is a new team and a new year, and we have a lot of different options. I just hope I can lead by example and help us accomplish what we did last year, if not more."