Jamari Wheeler was all set to become a Duquesne Duke and then naturally things changed, specifically Jim Ferry was fired and that set off a chain of events that now have him back at PPG Paints Arena as a participant in the Pittsburgh pod of the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s kind of funny how life just all comes full circle,” Wheeler remarked.
Instead, Ferry became an assistant coach at Penn State and Wheeler out of loyalty decided to go with him.
In his time as a Nittany Lion, Wheeler ranked sixth in program history with 191 steals and twice was named to the all-defensive team.
During the 2020-21 campaign Wheeler paced the Big Ten with his 1.76 steals per game and he would start 84 of 127, never missing a game in uniform. He would also start each game in his final two seasons with the program.
With Ferry now coaching at UMBC, Wheeler decided it was time to turn the page and reset, ultimately deciding to commit to Ohio State, another program in the same conference.
Wheeler cited the family environment, players, locker room and culture as why he decided to become a Buckeye.
“There’s just something I was looking to for my next school and also being here where I’m at now, I wanted to help lead my team to March Madness, he said. “So just to be able to be on this stage right now, I feel like a dream came true. I feel like Ohio State was the best decision for me, and at the end, I’m glad I picked here.”
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann expressed that Wheeler’s role may have been different had current Indiana Pacer Duane Washington returned, but by all accounts, the pair have meshed well together.
“Jamari has been great,” said Holtmann. “We went after Jamari right after the season last year so it was really quick. We thought it would be a great component there, kind of a scoring-minded 2 guard and then a guy that could really ball hawk. Obviously Duane stayed in the draft, so Jamari has had to pick up a little bit of offensive load. He’s done a good job.”
This season, Wheeler has totaled 38 steals and started all 29 games he appeared in, missing one game.
Coming into Friday afternoon’s first round victory. Wheeler expressed excitement upon Ohio State making the tournament, saying he did not fall asleep, though if things thus far have been a dream, he certainly does not want to be woken up.
“I was just so excited and ready to play, just like a dream come true, and I’m glad I’m here,” Wheeler said.