Picked 23rd overall in last week’s draft, Darius Bazley took a unique path to the NBA.
A one-time Ohio State verbal commitment, the Cincinnati native de-committed from the Buckeyes, committed to Syracuse and ultimately decided to sit out the season entirely. After a year of working out with private trainers in Memphis and working a three-month internship with New Balance that paid him $1 million, Bazley was taken by Oklahoma City in the first round of the 2019 NBA draft despite being more than a year removed from his last competitive game.
It was a gamble, but one that ultimately paid off. Live on draft night, as Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann participated in coverage of the entire first round in a broadcast on Stadium, he was asked by host Jeff Goodman if this could become a trend for future recruits.
"It could be," Holtmann said. "I think there are different paths. You can also point up here to a number of guys who used their college experience to really improve their draft place. Who’s to say that if he didn’t spend a year at Syracuse, would he be picked higher? That’s very well possible. We played against Syracuse this year. They were talented, but to have a player like that, they certainly could’ve used (him). Who’s to say that he couldn’t have improved it even more?
"This is his path and I think it worked out well. I’m not sure it’ll be a trend that we’ll see."
A Cincinnati Princeton product, Bazley was the top-rated recruit from Ohio in the class of 2018, a five-star recruit and the No. 17 prospect in the nation according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings. He initially committed to the Buckeyes at the same time as close friend and AAU teammate Justin Ahrens, who is entering his sophomore season with the Buckeyes.
He withdrew his commitment in April 2017, telling The Dispatch in an exclusive interview that the program under coach Thad Matta couldn’t provide the proper path to the NBA. Matta was fired that June and ultimately replaced by Holtmann.