Ohio State basketball aiming for back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes


It’s not often that Ohio State basketball out recruits Ohio State football. In fact, the last time the Buckeye hoops team had a better-ranked recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite, was in 2015 when the Scarlet and Gray basketball team landed the No. 5 class in the country and the football team finished the cycle No. 7.

At the moment, however, Chris Holtmann and his Ohio State staff are on an impressive recruiting tear. Over the last five days, the basketball Buckeyes landed commitments from two top-75 prospects in the nation, which has seen the team climb to No. 3 in the 2023 247Sports Composite team rankings. That is the same ranking as the Scarlet and Gray’s football team.

On Wednesday, Ohio State landed a commitment from four-star small forward Devin Royal out of Pickerington, Ohio. Royal is the No. 73 prospect in the country, the No. 14 player at his position in the class and the second-best player from Ohio. Four days later, Holtmann and the Buckeyes struck again when Wichita, Kansas’ Scotty Middleton announced his commitment to the Scarlet and Gray. As the No. 34 players in the 2023 recruiting class, Middleton shut up DJ Cartonfrom Ohio State’s 2019 class, as the highest ranked player to commit to Holtmann and the Buckeyes.

Royal and Middleton join a 2023 Scarlet and Gray class that already featured four-star shooting guard George Washington III (No. 60 prospect in the country) and four-star center Austin Parks (No. 105 prospect in the nation). As it currently stands, Ohio State is looking to land back-to-back top-10 classes for the first time since the 2014 and 2015 recruiting cycles.

This marks a positive step for the programme. While Holtmann has continued to get the Buckeyes to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first five years in Columbus, the recruiting under the head coach had not quite taken off. This had largely to do with the new staff, which took over before the 2017-18 season, having to reestablish itself as a place top players want to play after the Scarlet and Gray’s struggles, both on the court and on the recruiting trail, that the end of the Thad Matta era.

Prior to the 2022 class, Ohio State’s highest-rated class under Holtmann was in 2019 when the Buckeyes finished No. 14 in the team rankings. That class featured Carton, power forward EJ Liddellsmall forward Alonzo Gaffney and center Ibrahima Diallo. Only Liddell played his full college career with the Scarlet and Gray, as Carton and Gaffney only made it one season in Columbus before transferring and Diallo played two years before departing.

While the next two Ohio State classes ranked just inside the top 50 (No. 48 and No. 49 respectively in the team rankings), Holtmann and his staff continued to work on the trail. This led to the Buckeyes landing the No. 8 class in the 2022 cycle, made up of four-star shooting guard Roddy Gayle Jr.four-star point guard Bruce Thorntonfour-star center Felix Okparafour-star small forward Brice Sensabaugh (all top-65 players in the class) and three-star shooting guard Bowen Hardman.

These players are freshmen on the current Scarlet and Gray team and will play their first minutes as Ohio State players once the 2022-23 season tips off in November. But the success of others who have played under Holtmann certainly have helped the Buckeyes get back on track on the recruiting trail. Both Liddell and guard Malachi Branhamwho departed the Scarlet and Gray after his freshman season, were selected in the 2022 NBA Draft, giving Ohio State five players on active NBA rosters, four of which were coached by Holtmann.

Building off the momentum of the 2022 class was important for the Buckeyes and they were able to do that. The Scarlet and Gray landed a commitment from Washington in early November, followed by Parks’ commitment in mid-February. While it took almost six months for Ohio State to add to the 2023 class, it was worth the wait. Middleton is the highest-rated Buckeye commit since point guard Jaquan Lyle in 2015 and Royal marked the first highly-ranked Central Ohio player to commit to the Scarlet and Gray in Holtmann’s time in Columbus.

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It’s possible that Ohio State will only take four players in the 2023 class, but Africentric’s The Daily Swain remains out there and included the Buckeyes in his top five last week. Swain played with Royal and Washington on the AAU circuit and has long been a Scarlet and Gray target. If Swain does commit to Ohio State, the Buckeyes will have four top-75 players and the top three players from Ohio in the 2023 class.

It may have taken time for Holtmann and the Scarlet and Gray to get the recruiting ball rolling the way they would like, but things are now moving in the right direction. Possible back-to-back top-10 classes will then hopefully lead to even more success on the court, which in turn should help keep recruiting going in an upward trend.

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