Ohio State men's basketball spotlight | Justin Ahrens

Adam Jardy

Ohio State will open the 2018-19 season by playing its first game at Cincinnati in 98 years. The Buckeyes and Bearcats will meet at the newly renovated Fifth Third Arena on Nov. 7, marking only the 11th time the in-state programs have met and the first time they’ve played each other within state lines since 1921. In preparation for the game, The Dispatch is counting down the final 14 days with power rankings for each member of the Ohio State roster. The series continues today with the fourth player in our rankings.

No. 11 – Justin Ahrens

Position: Swingman

Class: Freshman

Height/Weight: 6 foot 5 / 180 pounds

Jersey Number: 10

Background: The lone Ohioan in Ohio State’s 2018 recruiting class, Ahrens rewrote the record book at Versailles. Ahrens owns the school records for points in a game, three-pointers in a game and career points, three-pointers, rebounds and assists. In the composite rankings, Ahrens was the No. 7 prospect from Ohio, the No. 54 small forward in the nation and the overall No. 249 recruit in the class of 2018.

2017-18 stats: As a senior, Ahrens averaged 23.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while helping Versailles to a 25-2 record and a league championship. You can read an in-depth feature on his senior season by clicking here.

Career stats: In 101 high school games, Ahrens averaged 20.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting 39.0 percent (230 for 590) from three, 59.7 percent (503 for 842) from inside the arc and 74.8 percent (350 for 468) from the free-throw line.

Need to know: Ahrens initially committed to Ohio State to play for Thad Matta, then reopened his recruitment before ultimately deciding to stick with the Buckeyes. Before getting to Ohio State, Ahrens reached out to Jae’Sean Tate, C.J. Jackson, Kyle Young and others for advice on handling the transition to college. His older brother, Kyle, is a junior at Michigan State and was recently singled out by Spartans coach Tom Izzo in a podcast interview as being healthy for the first time in two years. Justin also has a twin brother, AJ. He is close friends with Luke Kennard, a Middletown, Ohio, native who played at Duke and is now with the Detroit Pistons. As a junior and senior, Ahrens was named the Ohio Division III co-player of the year. He was a third-team all-Ohio pick after averaging 22.7 points as a sophomore. He’s known to be among the team’s most devoted Fortnite players.

2017-18 recap: Ahrens opened the year with his most prolific outing, pouring in 45 points on 10 three-pointers. He would find significantly harder going as the year progressed, however, as numerous teams would deploy a box-and-one to limit his chances. He was guarded in a similar fashion in four straight games at one point and in six of the final seven games of the year, which ultimately helped frustrate him but also prepare him for the attention he will receive in college.

2018-19 outlook: His reputation as a lights-out shooter has followed Ahrens to Ohio State, and he received at least one vote in the Dispatch unofficial poll of returning players for the best shooter on the team. However, coach Chris Holtmann has mentioned that Ahrens is dealing with a learning curve that comes with going from Division III to high-major college basketball. That, plus a depth chart featuring some experienced players ahead of him could portend a tough year for Ahrens to make a significant, sustained in-game impact. Still, he has impressed his teammates early. “He can shoot the ball,” junior forward Andre Wesson said roughly two weeks into preseason practice. “He can defend a little bit better than people give him credit for. He has pretty good size and he’s more athletic than you would think.”

Previous power rankings

No. 12 – Joey Lane (link)

No. 13 – Danny Hummer (link)

No. 14 – CJ Walker (link)


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