COLUMBUS, Ohio — As the Twittersphere filled with reports of Ohio State’s hiring of Butler’s Chris Holtmann on Friday morning, one post in particular seemed to catch the attention of those who follow Buckeyes basketball the closest.
Only the noteworthy tweet came not from a reporter or even a member of the Ohio State roster. Rather, it was the Twitter account of the Westerville South basketball program that provided perhaps the most significant insight into Buckeyes basketball’s new coach.
Excited to see Chris Holtmann accept the OSU job.
Chris was very active in recruiting Andre to Butler and I know he loved Kaleb’s potential
— Westerville South (@SouthBasketball) June 9, 2017
The Andre in question is Ohio State sophomore forward Andre Wesson, who did indeed hold an offer from Holtmann’s now-former employer coming out of Westerville South in 2016. Kaleb is Kaleb Wesson, Andre’s younger brother and a 4-star center who arrived on campus earlier this week as a member of the Buckeyes’ 2017 class.
Holtmann has only just become part of the Buckeyes family, but he’s no stranger to the Buckeye State. In addition to a two-year stint as an assistant on John Groce’s staff at Ohio University, Holtmann made recruiting Ohio one of his top priorities in his three seasons as the Butler’ coach.
From 2015-17, Butler signed at least one player from Ohio in each of its three recruiting classes. That group includes 2017 4-star forward Kyle Young, who chose the Bulldogs over the Buckeyes this last recruiting cycle. Young has yet to enroll at Butler, and there is speculation he could still land in Columbus following Holtmann’s departure.
Now Holtmann shifts from the role of intruder to attempting to keep Ohio’s homegrown talent in-state. And if he can do that, it shouldn’t take long for the 45-year-old Holtmann to find success at his new job.
Although he inherits a program that’s missed the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons, Holtmann finds himself in a more favorable position than Thad Matta did 13 years ago. When Matta took over at Ohio State, the Buckeyes were coming off a 14-16 season and facing NCAA sanctions. In Matta’s first season, Ohio State won 20 games and in his second, it won the Big Ten title. In his third year, the Buckeyes played for the national title.
Recruiting, of course, was the key to Ohio State’s turnaround under Matta and perhaps also the biggest reason for his downfall. As Matta’s health waned, so did the Buckeyes’ results on the recruiting trail. And Ohio State couldn’t afford to strike out with Ohio’s talent-rich Class of 2018.
Enter Holtmann, who already has made in-roads into the Buckeye State’s crop of blue-chip talent. While at Butler, Holtmann offered 4-star guard Dwayne Cohill and 4-star forward Jerome Hunter. Both players already held scholarship offers from Ohio State as well. Now it seems at least a little more likely they’ll wind up as Buckeyes.
Perhaps the same could be said of 4-star forward Darius Bazley, whose de-commitment from Ohio State earlier this spring highlighted an offseason of instability. The Buckeyes also likely will increase their efforts with the state’s top-ranked player, Pete Nance.
Factor in the pre-existing commitment of 4-star guard Dane Goodwin, who told Bucknuts.com he approved of Holtmann’s reported hiring, and the pieces are in place for Holtmann to put together a very strong recruiting class in his first year on the job.
If he can do that, it shouldn’t be long until Ohio State contends for the Big Ten championship once again.
The road map for a return to relevance is there. More importantly than anything else for Holtmann, so are the relationships on the recruiting trail.