Darius Bazley didn’t come to his decision to de-commit from Ohio State lightly, or overnight. After issuing his oral commitment late last August, the four-star prospect in the class of 2018 watched as the Buckeyes finished 17-15 overall and were passed over for an at-large NIT bid.
Ultimately, it led to a note posted to Twitter on Wednesday afternoon announcing that he was reopening his recruitment. Today, he told The Dispatch that while he will still consider the Buckeyes, he felt he rushed his initial decision and had to reevaluate it.
“I was excited when I first got the offer,” he said. “Ohio State is still a great place. It’s nothing against the school or anything, but my one ultimate goal is to get to the NBA and I just didn’t feel as confident as I did when I first committed that Ohio State was one of those schools that could get me there. At the end of the day I’ve got to perform no matter where I go, but I think there’s other schools out there that could put me on a bigger stage and in a better position to show those NBA scouts when I get to college what I can do.”
It led Bazley, ranked as the top prospect in his class in Ohio by 247Sports.com, to call Ohio State coach Thad Matta after school Wednesday to deliver the news.
“Coach, he’s extremely cool,” Bazley said. “He’s a great guy. I’m not going to say I let him down, because I don’t know exactly how he felt about it, but saying something like that, it wasn’t easy at all. It was hard getting that across, but coach Matta was completely understanding. No hard feelings about it, no grudges being held. He still hopes for the best for me, whether it’s Ohio State or not. He wants to make sure I’m successful and that’s one of the great things about him. He’s not going to be mad or completely forget about me.”
During Matta’s first 12 seasons with the program, the Buckeyes have had 10 players taken in the NBA draft, eight of whom went in the first round. During that stretch, Ohio State is tied with Michigan State for the most picks and has three more first-round selections than anyone else in the conference. The last Ohio State player taken in the draft was D’Angelo Russell, who went second overall in 2015.
The Buckeyes have signed two players for the 2017-18 season, both of whom are four-star recruits: center Kaleb Wesson and point guard Braxton Beverly. Two players remain committed for the class of 2018, both also from Ohio: four-star guard Dane Goodwin from Upper Arlington and three-star small forward Justin Ahrens. The Buckeyes have worked to add to Bazley’s class and in particular continued to recruit Pickerington North small forward Jerome Hunter, even though he projects to play a similar role to Bazley.
Ahrens and Bazley are longtime friends and committed to the program together last summer.
“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. I just felt as if I was to de-commit, actually take my time, figure everything out it would just be a lot better.”
Since going public with his announcement, Bazley said he’s been contacted by Michigan, Florida, Maryland, Xavier, Purdue and Virginia Tech, while he’s had coaches tell him they’d been contacted by Texas, Kansas and Connecticut about him. Xavier is the only school to have offered Bazley a scholarship as of Thursday afternoon.
After transferring schools and sitting out the first 11 games of his junior season, Bazley helped lead Cincinnati Princeton to 15 wins, its most in six years. This summer, he is also changing AAU programs, going from C2K Elite on the Under Armour circuit to 22 Vision on the Adidas circuit. He will be with the team in Atlanta this weekend to participate in the Adidas Gauntlet.
The move was made to help increase his national exposure.
“Romeo Langford (a consensus top-five national recruit) plays for that team and I think it was a win-win situation,” Bazley said. “They have good players, but he’s also getting someone that can help him out and on top of that he’s attracting all these big schools. It’s a good opportunity for me to be recruited by some of those big schools.”
And although jumping back into the recruiting world to start from scratch while also switching AAU teams and preparing for a senior season sounds challenging, it’s a situation Bazley said he’s embracing.
“I don’t think it’s hard at all,” he said. “I kind of like the attention. Plus, it’s another opportunity for me to go out there and just showcase what I can do. I’m still focused on my priorities, but to me it’s not very hard at all.”