E.J. Liddell has always wanted to go to Ohio State. It started when, as a child, he wanted to play for the football team.
“I was more of a fat guy and thought I was going to play football,” he told The Dispatch on Monday night.
Liddell grew out of that body but not those dreams. Now a four-star power forward prospect in the class of 2019, the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Liddell committed to the Buckeyes over Missouri and Illinois. The senior from West High School in Belleville, Illinois, took official visits to all three schools, but his visit to Ohio State during the weekend of Aug. 31 cemented a few things in his mind.
His conversations with coach Chris Holtmann and assistant coach Ryan Pedon, his primary recruiters, went well. He liked the plan for how he would fit into their system, sliding in alongside 2019 commitment Alonzo Gaffney and playing together. Most of all, he liked the players he would be surrounded with once he got to campus.
THE NEXT CHAPTER.... pic.twitter.com/JH6D15zckI— E.J. Liddell (@EasyE2432) October 1, 2018
“I took the visits to see where I would fit in best and how I got along with the guys, because I’ve got to be around them all the time, not the coaching staff,” he said. “I had to fit in with the guys, see how they live by, what they do, and that’s basically it.”
That included Gaffney, the top prospect from Ohio who will play his senior season at Wolfeboro Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, and five-star point guard DJ Carton from Bettendorf, Iowa. With his commitment, the Buckeyes have the top prospect from each of the three Big Ten states and a trio of top-50 prospects.
The Ohio State class is now ranked No. 4 nationally in the 247Sports.com rankings. Carton is ranked No. 24 nationally, Gaffney is No. 39 and Liddell is No. 48 and the No. 10 power forward.
“I feel like those guys are winners, and I want to win,” he said. “That’s my thing. The individual accolades will come along with that, but winning is my thing so I feel like with those guys in that system, I feel like we’ll win.”
Liddell visited Missouri during the weekend of Sept. 7 and then the Fighting Illini during the weekend of Sept. 25. After taking a week to think things over, he was eating dinner at a local Waffle House when he stepped outside with his mom and dad to call first Pedon and then Holtmann.
“I was like, ‘So, how’s the weather in Ohio?’ ” Liddell said. “(Pedon) was like, ‘It’s 75 and sunny.’ Then he was like, ‘Are you telling me what I think you’re telling me?’ He was driving, and then he started screaming and he almost crashed. Then I called coach Holtmann right after that and he had the same reaction.”
Barring any offseason transfers out of the program that would free up a scholarship, Liddell’s commitment closes the book on Ohio State’s class of 2019.