Ohio State men's basketball recruiting | What's next for the Buckeyes in 2020 after Zeb Jackson's decision

Adam Jardy

Ohio State missed out on one of the top in-state recruits for the class of 2020 when Zeb Jackson committed to Michigan on Tuesday night. A four-star guard from Toledo Maumee Valley Country Day School, Jackson is ranked as the No. 2 Ohioan in his class in the composite rankings.

The Buckeyes had been one of Jackson’s seven finalists and had been recruiting him hard, but what does this mean for their class of 2020? A few thoughts.

Spots are limited

Projecting rosters beyond a year or two can be folly in today’s college basketball, where transfers are the norm and roster turnover expected. Keeping that in mind, here’s Ohio State’s projected roster for the 2020-21 season, when Jackson will be a freshman:

Seniors – Kaleb Wesson, Kyle Young, Musa Jallow, CJ Walker (redshirt)

Juniors – Jaedon LeDee, Justin Ahrens, Duane Washington Jr., Luther Muhammad

Sophomores – DJ Carton, Alonzo Gaffney, E.J. Liddell

Right now, the Buckeyes have two scholarships to offer for the class of 2020. That brings us to our next point.

Guard isn’t a position of need

In looking at that above list, the Buckeyes will have four pure guards on the roster and all will be experienced. Walker will be a fifth-year player entering his second season with the Buckeyes after having spent his first two years at Florida State, and Washington and Muhammad figure to be well-established Big Ten guards by this point. Then, adding into that, Carton is the highest-rated recruit coach Chris Holtmann has ever landed.

Those guys are going to play and it’s hard to find minutes for many more players in the backcourt, and it actually might be hard to get them all minutes. The Buckeyes used three guards throughout Holtmann’s first season: C.J. Jackson averaged 30.5 minutes per game, Kam Williams averaged 23.6 and Andrew Dakich averaged 19.0. Jallow saw some early minutes at shooting guard and finished with an average of 14.0 minutes per game, but in Big Ten play that dropped to an average of 10.2 minutes and included eight games of single-digit minutes.

The point? Unless you’re playing three guards extensively, it’s hard to get that many guys significant minutes in the backcourt. So in a class that might only have two or three members, a guard isn’t exactly a high priority in 2020. The next year, however, could be a different story – particularly if Carton plays himself into the NBA after two seasons.

Identifying needs

Again, looking at the projected roster, Ohio State figures to be a solid team with multiple potential all-Big Ten players assuming development continues and players live up to recruiting rankings. It’s challenging to look at a roster spot and see an obvious route to playing time, which could create problems for the Buckeyes as they work on the class. Finding players who want to come in right after a class comprised of three top-50 guys is difficult.

Having said that, another big post player is definitely on Holtmann’s radar. Wesson, Young and LeDee would be the primary options at center, but only Wesson is a natural fit there. Young and LeDee are options when the Buckeyes go “small,” like they did with Keita Bates-Diop last season, but another rim protector would be important to add for this class.

There are options there. Ohio State remains heavily involved with the state’s top prospect, 7-foot center Zach Loveday from Gallipolis Gallia Academy. Today, reported that Holtmann would be visiting five-star center Walker Kessler from Fairburn (Georgia) Woodward Academy. The 6-foot-10, 205-pound Kessler is the No. 14 overall prospect in his class and the No. 3 center in the composite rankings.

#OhioState head coach Chris Holtmann will be at Woodward Academy today to see 5-star 2020 big man Walker Kessler. Kessler also let me know he has official visits planned with #Michigan and #Virginia in the next couple months. Took his first official visit to #Vanderbilt.

— Dan McDonald (@DMcDonaldRivals) October 24, 2018

The other need would be on the wing, where Holtmann likes to add at least one versatile player in each class. Four-star small forward Che Evans, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound recruit from Lutherville Timonium (Maryland) Dulaney, is reportedly taking an unofficial visit to check out the Buckeyes this weekend. Five-star small forward Jalen Johnson from Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Nicolet is on the radar, as is four-star small forward Ethan Morton from Butler (Pennsylvania) Area.

Penn in the mix

The other obvious name on the radar is Dom Penn, a guard in the class of 2020 who also holds an Ohio State offer. The Buckeyes offered Dom, Scoonie’s son, more than a year ago and are continuing to recruit him.

Penn is the No. 3 prospect in his class from Ohio, the No. 25 point guard prospect in the nation and the overall No. 130 recruit according to 247Sports. The Dublin Coffman junior has most recently added offers from Akron and St. Louis and it remains to be seen if his Big Ten interest will grow.


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