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'3bler' on verge of setting Big Ten 3-point mark

Sometime during Sunday's big game at No. 11 Purdue, Ohio State shooting guard Jon Diebler will catch a pass, set his feet, coil and release a shot at the top of his jump.

Just like he has maybe 100,000 times going on a million, in gyms all over the country.

Only this time it just may be the 3-pointer that sets the Big Ten record.

The gangly 6-foot-6 senior enters the No. 2 Buckeyes' game vs. the Boilermakers (21-5, 10-3 Big Ten) with 331 3-pointers made, one behind Penn State's Pete Lisicky (1994-98).

No wonder some call him "3bler."

But it's not as if Diebler ever imagined he'd be the one to do it — or that it was ever in his sights.

"It will be kind of cool if it does happen," he said. "I'm sure it will be something I look back on when I'm older, but right now it's not something I think about. I'm just worried about winning games. That's our team's mentality."

The Buckeyes (25-1, 12-1) are having a banner season. A huge reason is Diebler, a marksman from the perimeter who keeps teams from surrounding post player Jared Sullinger or blanketing fellow shooters William Buford and David Lighty.

Diebler is the Buckeyes' fourth-leading scorer at 11.1 points a game while playing almost 35 minutes a night. He's shooting 48 percent from the field — and 48 percent on 3-pointers. He ranks fifth in the nation in accuracy behind the arc. That, in itself, is remarkable considering that in his freshman season he shot only 29 percent on 3-pointers.

Coach Thad Matta was asked about Diebler setting the conference mark.

"When he does," he said, laughing, "I'll probably say it could have happened a year ago if he had shot well as a freshman."

Then he turned serious.

"No, I've always said this about Jon. When you coach players and you see how hard they work — even when they're working hard and you're not watching — you want those guys to be rewarded. If and when that (record) happens, I'll be as excited as ever because I know what he's done, what he's put in to get that."

The son of a high school coach, Diebler and his two older brothers and his parents traveled to several outposts in small towns around Ohio before arriving in Upper Sandusky, a farming town of just over 6,000 nestled in the flat but fertile lands about an hour due north of Columbus.

It was there that Jon became a legend. He totaled 3,208 career points to set the all-time Ohio schoolboy record, breaking the mark of 2,958 set by another former Ohio State standout, Jay Burson. His Rams went unbeaten and won the state championship one year and he captured the Ohio Associated Press Mr. Basketball award in 2007.

No wonder when Jon came to Ohio State his new teammates expected him to step right in and continue churning out the points.

"He was going to come in and score 50 points a game out of high school," Lighty said with a grin.

But Diebler struggled with his shot, and on defense. He wasn't quick enough to keep up with guards and not muscular enough to defend a forward. He gradually improved, and so did his shooting, while the Buckeyes improved as well. They went 24-13 with him coming off the bench as a freshman, and have gone 22-11 and 29-8 heading into this successful season.

Matta stuck by Diebler through the bad times and, now, the good.

"I've always had great faith in Jon. At times, I'm the only one who had great faith in Jon, including himself," he said. "I watched his work ethic from the day he walked in here and I can remember when things maybe didn't go well for him his freshman year. All he cared about was winning. I knew if he kept that mindset and continued to work at the same level, he was going to be the player that he is today."

No opponent ignores him, that's for sure.

"The thing that's really unique is how big he is," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "He's one of those guys you feel like you got to him, but he's 6-6 and long and he gets it off and shoots it right in your face. He really works hard, so when he gets to that spot, he sprints there. He works, he moves without the ball and makes himself hard to guard."

Diebler has been durable and dependable. He has played in 133 games for the Buckeyes and has scored 1,357 points. Having made 3-pointers in 42 straight games, he also will set Ohio State marks for 3s taken, made and percentage.

Through it all, he hasn't had to pound his chest or raise his arms in self congratulation every time he makes another long-range shot. He prefers to contribute to the cause, to win, instead of calling attention to himself.

"You have to have a certain confidence about you," he said. "That's where I've grown the most. I've become a lot more confident, not only shooting the ball but developing my game as an overall player. I've always been taught from my mother and father, and my brothers, just to be humble."

True to form, he credits his teammates for making him better.

"I've been fortunate to play with a lot of great players in my four years here," he said. "That helps a lot, because I get a lot of open looks. But you have to stay humble. That was something I was taught growing up and it's something I've carried over until now."