COLUMBUS: The courts are aligned the same and the lighting inside Value City Arena and its two accompanying practice gyms hasn’t changed. But for most attendees at Ohio State’s annual summer team boys’ basketball camp, the proceedings this year felt strikingly different than they did a year ago.

When last year’s two-day camp got underway, the Buckeyes were without a head coach. Thad Matta had been fired three days prior, and that left a trio of assistants as well as director of basketball operations David Egelhoff to hold the fort and keep things going.

By the time camp ended on a Friday last year, Chris Holtmann had been named the coach and had secretly met with the team inside the locker room. This year, Holtmann and his assistants were consistently spotted throughout the arena during the two-day camp.

It’s made a difference.

“Obviously it was crazy last year because they were in the middle of literally figuring out who was going to be the next coach here,” Pickerington Central coach Eric Krueger told the Dispatch. “This year is a much better vibe because obviously the staff is in place, you know who you’re talking to when you come in, you’re continuing to develop a relationship with coach Holtmann and his staff. You just know they’re here, so it makes everything a lot different.”

Perhaps nowhere else was that more felt than at Upper Arlington, where Dane Goodwin had been committed to the Buckeyes for three years until Matta was let go. He de-committed from the program that week, then came and played on the college court that he had long thought would be his home at the next level. Goodwin has since signed with Notre Dame.

“Speaking for Dane, it was probably a situation where Dane was a little frustrated and not sure where he was going to go for college after being certain about it for so long,” Upper Arlington assistant coach Joe Bills said. “Then to come here at Ohio State and play and know that everybody’s watching I’m sure was a strange moment for him, but he played very, very well here last year.”

Regardless of the staff in place, Jackson coach Tim Debevic said there was never any doubt the Polar Bears would take part in the Ohio State camp. Although the Stark County school has gone to team camps at Michigan, Michigan State, Akron, Indiana and others, Ohio State is one Debevic said it will never miss.

It’s where the state finals are played.

“The coaches were going to keep doing it [last year],” he said. “They’re not going to cancel out on teams. Thad Matta did the right thing and they were still going to have the camp. I think Chris Holtmann’s done a great job and Ohio State’s done a great job this year and coach Matta did a great job when he was here. The camp’s going to go on and it should.

“Our goal is to play at Ohio State in March, so we’ve coming out here regardless of who the coach is. This is our goal: It’s Ohio State.”

Ohio State is recruiting Zach Loveday, a 7-foot center in the class of 2020 who landed a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes last fall. Gallipolis Gallia Academy came to camp last year so Loveday could continue to work his way onto Ohio State’s roster. This year, the Blue Devils returned because they, too, want to be playing here in March.

Having a coach in place helps, too.

“Oh, especially when he’s recruiting one of your kids,” coach Gary Harrison said. “We’re Buckeyes. It’s very important. I’ve got to know [Holtmann] and he’s very personal and he’ll get to know you and he can tell you some things here and there. If you’re being recruited it’s important to get to know the coaches and who you can trust.

“They had success this year and it’s really got the buzz. One thing they’re doing is they’re going to get some Ohio kids that can play.”