Kalen Etzler's signing with Ohio State men's basketball is a full family affair

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Kalen Etzler is front and center among family members after signing to play basketball at Ohio State.

CONVOY, Ohio — The time had arrived for Kalen Etzler to put pen to paper and add the next chapter to the family legacy.

Seated at a table with the Crestview High School logo behind him, the future Ohio State men’s basketball player was ready to sign his national letter-of-intent for the class of 2021. It was his signature going onto the paper, but it represented the family name of those who surrounded him while he did so. Etzler had an eight-member entourage with him, each decked out in either Ohio State or Crestview gear.

The two schools have a strong relationship. Just over his left shoulder stood Etzler’s uncle, Doug, who played for the Buckeyes from 1992-95. He’s in his second year as head coach at his alma mater, the school where Doug's dad, Ray – who stood over Kalen’s right shoulder – won 445 games as boys’ basketball coach from 1964-94.    

In this northwest Ohio village with a population of a little more than a thousand people, each of the roughly three dozen attendees for Wednesday’s festivities was either a family member or close friend of the man of the hour. So while the evening was about Kalen Etzler, future Buckeye, he viewed it more as a chance to grow the family name through his own success.

“It’s really just the people who got me here are really the ones going through my head, and I know that sounds really cliché but I just really wanted to thank everyone who’s taken their time and invested in my dreams,” he told The Dispatch. “I’m trying to not just uphold the standard, but I do it for myself and my personal pride. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, I’m just trying to keep my head on straight and put a good annotation behind my family’s last name.

“I love what I do and I love the group of people who are around me.”

After Etzler signed, he posed for photos in front of a massive wooden cutout of the state of Ohio featuring an Ohio State logo right in the center. During quarantine last spring, it was an art project he worked on with his mom, Krista Dailey, who sat directly to his right as he signed to play for the Buckeyes.

Mom was the brains behind the project and Kalen supplied most of the brawn, using a jigsaw to cut the state outline out of eight boards.

“When he got his own room he decided he wanted an Ohio State theme and I thought it would be neat to make a headboard in the shape of the state of Ohio,” she said. “I like spending time with (the kids) and he’s going to be leaving soon and I’m not going to get that time back.”

Kalen also added some LED lights to the back, she said, that help illuminate the project that had to be wheeled into the room on a dolly. He hopes to bring it with him when he gets to Ohio State this summer.

It’s a transition uncle Doug knows well. When he chose the Buckeyes over Ohio University and Bowling Green during his senior year at Crestview, Etzler committed himself to a long haul. After scoring 140 points during his first three seasons with the Buckeyes, he broke out and averaged a team-high 16.3 points per game as a senior.

“Everything’s bigger, faster, stronger (at Ohio State),” he said. “Attention to detail is so much more intense. It’s just a higher level. Kalen has worked extremely hard to get to this point, and being family it’s awesome when someone in your family has a chance to check off the box of one of the dreams you know they set a long time ago.”

Taking it all in, Ray Etzler felt like history was being repeated after seeing first Doug and now Kalen commit to the Buckeyes.

“For me, it’s a dream come true for somebody who’s worked real hard at the game,” he said of his grandson. “It’s really a blessing for the family. I’m very, very proud of the fact he gets an opportunity to go to a place like Ohio State.”

First, though, comes a senior year and the hope for a somewhat normal season. Etzler’s uncle and grandfather both said they expect teams to throw “junk” defenses at Etzler, a four-star recruit in the composite rankings who averaged 11.7 points and 10.7 rebounds last season, in an effort to slow him down.

He’ll need to put weight on when he gets to Ohio State, a fact that everyone in the family acknowledges. When he talks to Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann, though, Kalen said that’s not something that is being stressed yet.

“Whenever I bring up my weight, he shuts down whatever I’m trying to say and tells me, ‘Just do whatever you need to do. Work on the craft. We can do all that other stuff later,’ ” Kalen said. “I appreciate him for that.”