Ohio State men's basketball recruiting | E.J. Liddell comes to town for official visit
There was a game during E.J. Liddell’s junior season that stood out to his coach at Belleville (Illinois) West, but not for the reasons you’d usually expect. During a postgame interview with a local newspaper, Joe Muniz said he was informed that Liddell had only scored six points. In the process, it snapped a streak that had ran for at least a year of the skilled forward scoring in double figures. What was noteworthy about the streak coming to an end, though, was the fact that it didn’t accurately portray Liddell’s impact on the game.
“He had six points, (but) he had 12 blocked shots and 10 rebounds,” Muniz told The Dispatch. “He was just as happy as if he scored 32 points and had eight rebounds and four blocked shots. It doesn’t matter. The thing about him is he makes the right play.”
It’s the kind of attitude – and production – that has helped elevate Liddell into one of the nation’s top-rated recruits for the class of 2019. A four-star prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Liddell is listed as the No. 40 overall recruit in the nation and the No. 8 power forward in the nation. Today, he begins his first of five official visits with a trip to Ohio State for the weekend.
After that are scheduled official visits to Missouri (Sept. 7), Kansas State (Sept. 28), Wisconsin (Oct. 5) and Illinois (Oct. 12), with the hope of announcing for and signing with a school in the November period.
“The No. 1 thing he’s looking for, the five schools that he’s got on his list he’s looking for coaches that care about the kid, coaching staffs that he can build a relationship with and get him to that next level, to keep getting better,” Muniz said. “I’ve heard him say in numerous articles that he’s looking for coaches that have a great relationship with him and programs that have players just like him that are trying to achieve the same things.”
The teams recruiting him will get a player Muniz describes as his “go-to guy” especially on the block, where his best qualities are found.“He’s just a matchup nightmare (there),” he said. “Over the last three years he’s gotten to the point where he’s (also) a match-up nightmare away from the basket. We like to center him at the center of the court and either post him up down low or catch the ball at the top of the key, get him some space to work. He’s scoring at all three levels right now.”
Ohio State has commitments from five-star point guard DJ Carton and four-star guard small forward Alonzo Gaffney for its class of 2019. You can read about Gaffney's transfer to Wolfeboro (New Hampshire) Brewster Academy by clicking here. Although both forwards, Gaffney and Liddell present different profiles and could be used simultaneously with Gaffney’s perimeter-oriented game complementing Liddell’s post presence.
Gaffney is also taking his official visit to Ohio State this weekend. Carton, too, will be on campus with his family Saturday for the first football game of the year.
Muniz credited Liddell’s work ethic and his attention to his footwork for helping him develop as a player in the paint.
“He’s got, in my opinion, an old-school mentality,” the coach said. “He’s a throwback player. He plays hard every game when he goes out there and it doesn’t matter who it’s against or how many people are in the stands. It doesn’t matter what schools are in the stands. He plays the same way all the time. He plays that way in the summer and he plays that way in the winter. The only thing he cares about is winning.”
Last weekend, Ohio State hosted a pair of four-star prospects in power forward Zeke Nnaji from Hopkins, Minnesota, and center Qudus Wahab from Ashburn (Virginia) Flint Hill School. On Sept. 22, the Buckeyes will host four-star center prospect Omar Payne from Montverde (Florida) Academy on an official visit.
They have one spot remaining in the class of 2019. Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann and assistant coach Ryan Pedon have been Liddell’s primary recruiters.
“I have the utmost respect for coach Holtmann and coach Pedon,” Muniz said. “They’ve done a great job prioritizing E.J., but I think all five schools have that are on his list. Ohio State’s done a very good job. They are who they are. They’re not trying to be anything that they’re not, and they keep it real. I think that’s all you can ask out of the coaches. The five schools he’s picked, they’re all the same: they’re very much the same in all facets when they go about doing their business and they’ve got good, quality coaches there.
“I think Ohio State’s done a great job basically expressing to E.J. how valuable they think he is and how badly they want him.”