The new Buckeye basketball coaching staff wasted little time in showing their work.
Chris Holtmann took over for Thad Matta less than two weeks ago, and when he met with the media last week he emphasized the importance of recruiting in the state of Ohio.
On Monday, the first result of that came in the commitment of Massillon small forward Kyle Young. Young had previously been committed to Holtmann at Butler, but was allowed out of his obligation and will now join the Ohio State basketball team very soon.
Even while at Butler, Holtmann was already successful in recruiting Ohio. Now at OSU, however, it must become the norm, and that is exactly what he is going to try to accomplish.
“This region is a tremendous area for talented, smart and tough players,” Holtmann said at his introduction. “I’ve recruited Ohio for over 20 years, and it has outstanding players and coaches. Some of the very best in the country. It will be paramount to our success. There’s no question. We’re going to work extremely hard to close our borders and dominate the state of Ohio in recruiting. It will be an everyday focus for us.”
The good news for the OSU coaching staff is that there are plenty of Ohioans to focus on. Fitting Young into the 2017 class was a boon, but the real test will be the 2018 class. In 2018, Ohio currently has five 4-star prospects according to the 247Sports Composite. Now, one of those players — Darius Bazley — is already an Ohio State decommitment and that ship may have sailed. Another Buckeye decommitment — Justin Ahrens — is a 3-star small forward prospect and the No. 6 player in the state. Could OSU get back involved with him? Maybe.
Pete Nance is a 6-foot-8 small forward from Richfield. He is rated the No. 16 small forward in the nation and the No. 2 player in the state behind Bazley. He is down to Ohio State, Michigan, and Northwestern. Can Holtmann and his crew make up enough ground to overtake the favored Wolverines?
The No. 3 player is 6-foot-2 combo guard Dwayne Cohill out of Cleveland. He is rated the No. 3 combo guard in the nation and the No. 65 player overall. One of the first moves Holtmann made as a Buckeye head coach was to offer Cohill. It’s no secret that Ohio State needs guards, which makes Cohill arguably the most important piece of the 2018 puzzle.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, they already have a 2018 guard committed in 6-foot-4 Dane Goodwin of Columbus. He is the No. 4 player in the state and the no. 16 shooting guard in the class. Goodwin has never wavered on his commitment to Ohio State, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to start now.
Jerome Hunter is the No. 5 player in the state. A 6-foot-7 small forward out of Pickerington, he was offered just last week. Holtmann offered him back in March at Butler, so the OSU coaching staff already has a relationship with him. This could be a Michigan-Ohio State battle, and Pickerington has been very, very good to the Wolverines — in both football and basketball — over the last handful of years.
What would be a good number for the Buckeyes to hit with these undecided players? Cohill would seem like a must, and striking out on both Hunter and Nance would definitely sting.
Rest assured, however, this staff is going to do everything they can to keep the best in the state from leaving.
“We recruit talent that fits our system, talent that wants to be here,” assistant Ryan Pedon said. “We recruit talent that fits us from top to bottom. That’s a big part of the process. I can tell you that recruiting Ohio kids and keeping them home, that’s where it’s at for our program.”
“That’s going to be our point of emphasis,” echoed assistant Mike Schrage. “Our recruiting, can we recruit nationally? Absolutely. This is an amazing product, but it’s got to start in Ohio. It’s got to. The best players in Ohio hopefully grew up wanting to be a Buckeye and we’ve got to keep it that way.
“You think of this state, where we want to lock down first, and we want to recruit Ohio and then out — we’ve already had relationships with the high-major and top prospects in this state, and certainly throughout the country. We were recruiting pretty nationally there. Obviously at an Ohio State you can do that at a higher level.”
The coaches can see the big picture of the capabilities of recruiting at Ohio State. Everything a coach could need, he has. The facilities are top notch and they get improved every year. The network of alums is immense. If it’s exposure you want, Ohio State can provide it. There is plenty to sell.
Now they just have to get players to start buying in.
“I think the idea of staying home, leaving your legacy right now, a chance to propel us forward for the future, obviously a new staff and all that, but just a chance to leave your mark and leave your legacy,” Schrage said of their in-state recruiting pitch. “There’s no staff that will have a player’s back more than ours. The energy that we’re going to bring, the trust that we’re going to bring with those guys, they’re going to have a chance to become their best here at Ohio State. Not just on the court, but off the court.”
There are big plans ahead for Buckeye basketball and the coaches have already begun executing those plans.
With their eyes aimed toward the future, however, their focus begins now, and at home.
First Ohio, and then the world.
Or at at least the college basketball world.