July was always going to be an important month for Chris Holtmann and his new staff at Ohio State. Wednesday begins the first of three summer evaluation periods when men's basketball coaches can be on the road scouting and evaluating players.
For a staff that is barely approaching a month on the job, it’s a chance to lay groundwork for upcoming recruiting classes. Thanks to two recent additions, the Buckeyes will hit the trail with some momentum.
First it was Bloomington (Indiana) North four-star guard Musa Jallow, who committed to the Buckeyes and reclassified for the 2017 season, meaning he will be a freshman this fall. Three days later, Holtmann secured his first pledge for the class of 2018 when four-star shooting guard Torrence Watson from St. Louis Whitfield School picked the Buckeyes over Missouri.
The Ohio State coach can’t discuss either player until national letters of intent have been signed, which likely will be in August for Jallow and November for Watson. But both told The Dispatch after committing that their relationships built with Holtmann and his staff — the same ones that will be started or strengthened this month with other players across the country — were the difference-makers.
“It was really based on my relationship with the coaches, especially getting to know them at Butler,” Watson said. “I got to know them really well. They recruited me pretty hard (at Butler), and then when they went to Ohio State I was one of the first guys that they called, so they definitely made me a priority. That really helped me make my decision.”
College coaches can evaluate players from 5 p.m. Wednesday until 5 p.m. Sunday. That will continue for the following two weeks, and coaches will be fanning out across America to watch prospects, primarily at AAU camps. However, no-in person contact is permitted.
Presuming no early defections or further additions to this year’s team, Ohio State will have five available scholarships for the class of 2018 and seven for the following year — even with the two recent commitments.
“You could add half your roster in these next couple years,” Holtmann said in June. “(This July) is really important. It’s priority No. 1. The challenge is in front of us in ’18 and ’19. There’s no question about it. We’re digging in. When you get the job in June it puts you a little behind. You have to re-identify the new relationship with recruits, particularly in the ’18 class, so that’s the work ahead of us right now.”
It’s unlikely Holtmann will use all of his available scholarships, but there are a few positions of need. The Buckeyes need guards, and Holtmann has said that adding a center is also a priority in the ’18 class.
Holtmann has repeatedly stressed that he doesn’t want to get away from recruiting his type of players, both on and off the court. This rebuild will take time, and it will be on the backs of players such as Jallow, who said the opportunity at Ohio State was worth missing things such as his senior prom.
“It’s Ohio State,” he said. “I can give that stuff up pretty easily to go to Ohio State a year early. I wasn’t too focused on all that stuff. What I was really focused on was going for a state championship in basketball. I think going to Ohio State trumps anything that my senior year in high school could do.”