Ohio State men's basketball power rankings: No. 12 Gene Brown III
With the promise of fans in the stands and a return to normalcy, Ohio State will open the 2021-22 season with an exhibition game against Indianapolis on November 1. Eight days later, Akron will come to Value City for the first official game, a visit that canceled last year when COVID-19 delayed the start of the season.
The Buckeyes will bring a 15-man roster to their sideline this season, one with unprecedented experience that features two players in their sixth years of college basketball and four others in their fifth. Third-year forward E.J. Liddell is the first Ohio State player to return after being named first-team all-Big Ten since Aaron Craft did so in 2013-14, and his decision to return after exploring his NBA draft stock has the Buckeyes opening the season picked to finish fourth in a joint media preseason poll conducted by The Dispatch and The Athletic.
With all of that in mind, The Dispatch is counting down to the start of the season with our annual power rankings. These rankings are an educated guess at which players will have the most significant on-court impact during the course of the entire season and will feature each player on the roster.
The rankings continue today with Gene Brown III.
No. 12 – Gene Brown III
Class: Sophomore (second year)
Height/weight: 6 feet 6 / 195 pounds
Jersey number: 3
A three-star recruit according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Brown came to Ohio State as the No. 135 national recruit and the No. 22 shooting guard following an injury-shortened high school career at Conyers (Georgia) Southwest DeKalb. ESPN ranked him as a four-star recruit and the No. 29 small forward prospect in the nation. During his time with the Panthers, Brown helped the team win regional championships three times and led the only two teams in school history to consecutive state final four appearances. During his first three years of high school, Brown averaged 9.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game before suffering a broken tibia in his left leg as a junior. In five games that season, Brown averaged 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists prior to the injury.
As a senior, he returned to the same gym where he suffered the injury and finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds in a 56-55 overtime win. He committed to the Buckeyes from a list of six finalists that also included Butler, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Texas A&M. In 97 career games, he scored 1,120 points, grabbed 584 rebounds and recorded 149 steals, 139 assists and 138 blocks.
Need to know
Growing up, Brown was an accomplished baseball player before fully committing himself to basketball when he was about 13. Brown has created his own YouTube channel, “VibingWithEB3”, that shows viewers what life is like behind the scenes of Division I athletics. He’s emerged as an integral part of Ohio State’s recruiting efforts, frequently helping host visiting recruits. One of the most athletic players on the team, Brown has the potential to be among the team’s best defenders. Last spring, Brown had a serious battle with COVID-19 that required two hospitalizations during a 17-day period.
Brown does not have a middle name and is afraid of small holes, a fear known as Trypophobia. He lists Young Thug as his favorite musical artist of all-time. Brown finished in the top 10% of his graduating class, scored an 1100 on his SAT, earned the David Mitchell Community Service Scholarship and Barack Obama Leadership Award and was selected to the National Society of High School Scholars. Brown was coached by his father, Eugene Brown Jr., in high school.
In a backcourt laden with veterans, Brown struggled to make a consistent impact during his first year with the program. His biggest individual performance came during a 77-70 win against UCLA as part of the CBSSports Classic inside Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland. There, he hit each of his three three-point attempts to help fend off the Bruins, earning the nickname “Downtown Eugene Brown” in the process.
Although he would appear in 29 of Ohio State’s 31 games, those nine points would be a season high for Brown. He was a healthy unused substitute in the final regular-season game of the year and in a third-round overtime win against Purdue in the Big Ten tournament. He scored 35 points (1.2 per game), shot 35.1% (13 for 37) from the floor and 28.0% (7 for 25) from three while grabbing 1.3 rebounds per game. Brown played a season-high 21:33 in a 90-54 win against Nebraska on December 30.
He had an individual plus-minus rating of plus-35 for the season.
Brown has all of the physical tools to be an impactful player on an Ohio State team that has put heavy early emphasis on defensive improvement. With his length, size and athletic ability, Brown will have the opportunity to build on his experience last season as a player who would primarily be inserted into moments of defensive need.
After losing Duane Washington Jr. and CJ Walker to the professional level, the Buckeyes will essentially open the year with a brand-new backcourt. That means roles are up for grabs, and Brown entered camp with as much an opportunity as anyone to claim one.
“It doesn’t really change much,” he said of Washington and Walker’s departures. “I’m just gonna keep my head down, keep working. I know the things I need to do to be on the court and to be a consistent player to help Team 123.”
Despite the battle with COVID that left him behind from a conditioning standpoint, Brown impressed third-year teammate E.J. Liddell with his offseason work. He remained in Columbus for the majority of the summer in order to best work on his fitness, occasionally participating in the Kingdom Summer League in order to get even more playing time and work.
“Eugene Brown has really improved on his body,” Liddell said at Ohio State’s media day. “He’s added some weight and his defensive skill-set (is tough).”
Brown is one player to track closely during fall camp.
Gene Brown III:Ohio State signee puts significant injury behind him
Previous power rankings
No. 13 – Seth Towns
No. 14 – Harrison Hookfin
No. 15 – Kalen Etzler