The clock was ticking. The car wasn’t running, but it was about to. A flight home to Georgia awaited Eugene Brown and his family Sunday afternoon, but there was important business to attend to and a celebration to be held.
Inside Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann’s office in Value City Arena, the four-star shooting guard had just decided to commit to the Buckeyes. It came at the end of a weekend-long official visit that so thoroughly impressed the Brown family that they had no doubts about making a final decision.
Then after the pictures were taken, hands were shaken and some tears wiped away, assistant coach and primary recruiter Jake Diebler loaded the Browns into a car to drive them to John Glenn Columbus International Airport, and had a few words of caution.
“Coach Diebler, we were getting the car and he was like, ‘You guys, I’m going to have to push it a little bit, so hang on,’ ” Brown’s father, Eugene Brown II, told The Dispatch. “We told him, ‘Do what you’ve gotta do, Coach. We’re OK. We’ll just take the next flight if we’ve got to.”
They arrived on time and spent the flight back home discussing how a decision that had seemed to be weeks away had presented itself so unexpectedly. The 6-foot-6, 190-pound Brown had narrowed his list to six schools and had official visits to Texas A&M and Louisville planned during each of the next two weekends, so when they landed in Columbus on Friday the message from parents to son was simple: We don’t have to decide anything today.
But, if we feel it, let’s go with it. By Sunday afternoon, they did.
“He was just overwhelmed,” Brown II said. “He just felt like this was the spot for him. I said, ‘We’ve got some other trips that might be the same feelings,’ and he said, ‘No, this is the spot. This is where I want to be. I don’t know what else anybody could offer that would be better than this.’
“He thought about it, we did a little prayer amongst our family and that’s the conclusion he came up with.”
Brown is rated as the No. 126 prospect in the nation, the No. 26 shooting guard and the No. 6 overall prospect from Georgia in the 247Sports.com composite rankings. He suffered a broken leg that required a screw to be inserted, costing him most of his junior season, but he is back to full health and likely to climb in the rankings.
That will benefit the Buckeyes, who had hosted three 2020 recruits on official visits during the prior two weekends before Brown’s visit. Ohio State had just one available scholarship for the class, and Brown didn’t want to let that pass him by.
“He didn’t want to get on the plane,” Brown’s father said. “What he said was, ‘I don’t want to get on the plane looking to go somewhere else and then somebody else (takes it). They only had one scholarship. So if I get on the plane and let this go and I get on the plane and get back to Atlanta, somebody else is taking my scholarship instead.’ ”
A wing who can play small forward or shooting guard, Brown brings versatility and a high IQ — both on the court and in the classroom — to the program. He has an 1100 on the SAT and a grade-point average of better than 4.0 while taking almost exclusively college courses as a senior. His father, who is also his coach, described him as the team’s best defender and a great rebounder who can make decisions in transition, as well as a dangerous shooter.
His commitment gives the Buckeyes a full projected roster for the 2020-21 season, but they are not done working on the class. With the reality of roster turnover in college basketball coupled with the growing likelihood that junior center Kaleb Wesson could play his way into the NBA this season, Ohio State is likely to add one more post player and over-sign for the 2020 class.
It was fitting that Diebler drove the Browns to the airport. He began recruiting the wing while he was an assistant at Vanderbilt and continued to build upon that relationship when he joined the Buckeyes. Monday, he’s scheduled to visit Brown at home as well and watch a workout, Brown II said.
Still, it was a staff effort that led to the commitment. Brown II said Holtmann, three full-time assistants and multiple other program assistants who helped put the visit together were all on hand to celebrate the news.
“They brought four guys to the home visit earlier last week,” he said. “We knew that wasted recruit visits (for other players) when you brought that many guys, but that’s what they did. They’ve shown their interest in him and their need and want for him since they started recruiting him, even through the injury part earlier in the year.”
And it paid off Sunday afternoon.