COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Friday, Ohio State announced Chris Holtmann as its 14th men’s basketball head coach in program history.
It won’t take long for the former Butler coach to hit the recruiting trail.
With July, the pivotal month of college basketball recruiting, approaching, Holtmann will be doing his best to resurrect what was a once-promising 2018 Ohio State recruiting class. As currently constructed, the Buckeyes have one committed prospect in their coming class, 4-star guard Dane Goodwin.
That won’t be enough.
In one of Ohio’s most talent-rich pools in recent memory, Holtmann can find early success in Columbus — should he tap into his in-state resources. And should he do that, it won’t take long for Ohio State to once again be competing for Big Ten titles.
Who should the Buckeyes’ head coach be prioritizing for his first recruiting class at Ohio State? Let’s take a look.
Having formerly been committed to Ohio State, Justin Ahrens de-committed from the Buckeyes’ 2018 class following the news of Thad Matta’s firing earlier this week. But as he considers his options, one would imagine the Versailles, Ohio product would be intrigued by the idea of playing for Holtmann, who used a pace-and-space offense in his final season in Indianapolis.
A 3-star prospect, the 6-foot-5, 181-pound Ahrens ranks as the No. 38 small forward and No. 6 overall player in the state of Ohio in the 2018 class. In addition to Ohio State, Ahrens holds offers from Dayton, Duquense, Stony Brook and Texas A&M.
Although he hadn’t yet offered him, Holtmann showed interest in the younger brother of Michigan State wing Kyle Ahrens during his time at Butler. As he puts together his first class in Columbus, the Buckeyes coach could now make landing the sharpshooting forward one of his top priorities.
A 4-star prospect, Jerome Hunter ranks as Ohio’s No. 5 overall player and the 25th-ranked small forward in the 2018 class. Yet despite hailing from nearby Pickerington North High School, Hunter’s 247Sports Crystal Ball currently projects the 6-foot-5 forward to land at rival Michigan.
Rest assured, Ohio State fans, Holtmann will do his best to make sure that doesn’t happen. One of the biggest knocks on Matta during the end of his tenure was he didn’t secure enough local talent. The recruitment of Hunter will provide Holtmann an early opportunity to do that.
Although Goodwin is already in the fold, the Buckeyes will want to add at least one more guard to their upcoming class. Kam Williams is entering his senior season and JaQuan Lyle unexpectedly left the team this past spring.
Ideally, that player would be Dwayne Cohill, a 4-star prospect and the No. 3 player in Ohio’s 2018 class. At 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, Cohill ranks as the nation’s No. 3 combo guard and No. 57 overall player.
With the ability to fill the backcourt scoring void that will be left by Williams, securing a commitment from Cohill will undoubtedly be one of Holtmann’s top priorities in the coming months. While at Butler, Holtmann had offered the Cleveland Holy Name product a scholarship. And with his new gig, he has a better chance of landing him.
In addition to Ohio State and Butler, Cohill holds offers from Northwestern, Penn State, Virginia Tech and Vanderbilt among others.
The son of former NBA forward Larry Nance and the brother of Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr., Pete Nance possesses both the size (6-foot-8, 180 pounds) and athleticism that’s come to be expected from his family. And yet there hasn’t been much recent buzz surrounding Ohio State’s chances with the Buckeye State’s top-ranked player.
That, however, could soon change, given the arrival of Holtmann. The youngest Nance could be an ideal fit as a point forward in the Buckeyes’ new offense. More than anything, he’ll provide Holtmann an opportunity to land a signature recruit early in his tenure.
The nation’s ninth-ranked small forward and No. 34 overall player, Nance hails from Richfield, Ohio. In addition to the Buckeyes, he holds offers from Michigan, Northwestern, Florida, West Virginia and Clemson.
Ever since Ohio State’s 2016-17 season came to an end, there’s been no shortage of instability. The biggest sign there were issues in the Buckeyes’ program, however, may have been the de-commitment of 4-star forward Darius Bazley.
The state of Ohio’s second-ranked player, Bazley had been viewed as one of the cornerstones of Ohio State’s 2018 class. But his de-commitment sent shockwaves through the program, as did his comments when speaking to the Columbus Dispatch’s Adam Jardy.
“Ohio State, they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament this year,” Bazley said. “They didn’t even make the NIT, which is unfortunate, but I looked into the recruits they have coming into next year, they didn’t look too good for the future. So I felt like when my class came in, yeah, we would’ve been OK, but good enough to make the tournament? I don’t know.
But with the dawning of a new era of Buckeyes basketball, perhaps Holtmann could convince the 6-foot-9, 200-pound small forward Ohio State is back on track. And if he can, the Buckeyes likely won’t have to worry about missing the NIT for a very long time.