Men's basketball | Connection with Chris Holtmann bringing Justice Sueing to Ohio State

Adam Jardy
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Chris Holtmann. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

When Justice Sueing put his name into the transfer portal after two standout seasons at California, it didn’t take long for schools to start calling.

In the case of Ohio State, it took about 20 minutes. And a little more than a month later, Sueing decided to continue his collegiate career with the Buckeyes thanks largely to the bond forged with coach Chris Holtmann and assistant coach Ryan Pedon.

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“I felt like the coaching staff was real genuine,” Sueing said in his first public comments since announcing his commitment May 10. “They were the right fit for me. I felt like we kind of clicked right from the beginning, coach Pedon and coach Holtmann. That was a big part of it, especially the understanding that I’d have a good relationship with the coaches. And then on top of that, the situation, I felt like I’d be able to really contribute to the program and make a real difference at Ohio State.”

A native of Honolulu, Sueing played high school basketball for Santa Ana (California) Mater Dei before committing to the Golden Bears. He played two seasons for coach Wyking Jones, who was let go after an 8-23 record last season. As a sophomore, Sueing led California in scoring and rebounding at 14.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, good for 12th and 13th best, respectively, in the Pac-12.

He is the first player from Hawaii to commit to Ohio State for basketball.

The power forward will sit out the 2019-20 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules and have two years of eligibility remaining. ESPN ranked Sueing as the 13th best “sit-one” transfer option on the market.

As he entered the portal and began to explore his options, Sueing said he wanted to look at a school on the West Coast and another somewhere out east and pick between the two. San Diego State and Ohio State landed his two visits, with his Buckeyes visit taking place during the weekend of May 3.

“It was great,” Sueing said. “I thought the campus was great. I felt like the people that were there were really open, especially the people I spoke to. The facilities there are really nice. The whole situation kind of blew me away, and that’s what set them apart from other schools.”

A relationship with Holtmann helped, too. While coach at Butler, Holtmann recruited Sueing out of high school.

In addition to a career scoring average of 14.2 points, the 6-foot-7, 215-pound Sueing brings a high free-throw rate to Ohio State. He finished No. 126 nationally in that category, higher than anyone on Ohio State’s roster from a season ago and a point of emphasis from Holtmann.

“I feel like I’m able to read the defense very well as far as how they’re playing me and once I feel like I have an advantage at some point I can usually create an opportunity for a foul or a foul and a bucket,” he said. “I’ve always pretty much been good at getting to the line my whole career. I have a bigger frame, too, and that maybe makes it a little easier, too.

“I feel like because my versatility and my feel for the game, that’s why I feel like I can help Ohio State. Not just because of the position as far as the team when I get eligible and feeling like when I can come in I can be a major contributor, but more so that the system is how I played. Coach Holtmann does a great job as far as running the program. Being able to trust him, I know he’ll be able to put me in the right spots to score or play-make. I feel like we both see eye-to-eye on that and that helped a lot as far as feeling like I’ll fit into the program.”

Sueing is finishing up classes at Cal. From there, he will spend some time training in Los Angeles, he said, before going home to Honolulu for a bit before getting to Columbus.

“I’ll be back in Columbus very soon ready to work, ready to build a relationship with the team and the coaches (in) year one and be ready to work hard this offseason and be ready when I’m eligible,” he said. “I’m excited.”


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