Ohio State men's basketball power rankings: No. 10 Joey Brunk
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 Joey Brunk.
No. 10 – Joey Brunk
Class: Graduate (sixth year)
Height/weight: 6 feet 11 / 255 pounds
Jersey number: 50
Major: Criminal justice administration
A native of Indianapolis, Brunk was a four-star prospect in the 247Sports.com composite database for the class of 2016. Ranked No. 109 nationally and third in his state, the product of Southport High School and one of three finalists for Indiana Mr. Basketball as a senior committed to Butler ahead of Oklahoma and was also considering Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State and Purdue, in large part due to his relationship with Bulldogs coach Chris Holtmann. There, he would play in seven of the first 10 games of the season but receive a hardship waiver from the NCAA as his father, Joe, battled a cancer diagnosis and passed away in April, 2017.
Holtmann would leave for Ohio State that summer, but Brunk would spend his next two seasons at Butler. During his second year, Brunk averaged 1.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in 20 games before appearing in 33 games including 13 starts during his third year. Brunk grew his averages to 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds, and his .617 shooting percentage that season ranks among the 10 best single-season performances in school history.
He also graduated that year with a degree in elementary education and, with two years of eligibility remaining, transferred to Indiana after also considering Ole Miss. ESPN ranked him the No. 14 immediately eligible transfer player of the year. During his first season with the Hoosiers, and his fourth in college basketball, Brunk started 31 of 32 games and averaged 6.8 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 52.2% from the floor. He also earned the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
Brunk was a captain the following season but would not see any playing time for Indiana during his fifth year of college basketball due to a back injury that required surgery in December, 2020. He entered the transfer portal during the offseason and was quickly contacted by Holtmann, allowing the two to link up for one final season. Brunk will get a sixth season because the NCAA granted all players an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In four seasons, he has averaged 5.6 points and 3.5 rebounds in four active seasons while never averaging more than 20 minutes per game.
Need to know
Aside from Holtmann, Brunk has a few ties to the Ohio State program. He grew up playing AAU basketball against former Buckeye CJ Walker and helped recruit Kyle Young, now a fifth-year senior, to Butler before he de-committed and followed Holtmann to Ohio State. While at Indiana, Brunk earned his Master’s in recreation administration.
Brunk is the tallest and heaviest player on Ohio State’s roster. He bears more than a passing resemblance to actor Matthew McConaughey, and his Twitter bio gives a nod to that with the caption, “Matthew McConaughey with a baby hook.” Brunk is one of only three Ohio State players without a TikTok account.
It was a rough year for Brunk, who as the result of what he has described as “wear and tear” was unable to suit up for the Hoosiers and underwent back surgery in December. He remained a team captain and earned academic all-Big Ten honors, but although he did not play due to injury Brunk was close to being cleared by the end of the season. He ultimately put his name into the portal and quickly found a new home in Ohio State for his final season.
“It was frustrating, dealing with that injury,” Brunk told The Dispatch in April. “It wasn’t ideal. I wanted to get out there and compete and help us win. That part was difficult, but I had a great support system and I told myself I was going to come back better because of it. I think I’m well on my way to making that a reality.”
Back to full health, Brunk will battle with second-year center Zed Key for minutes at center. He gives the Buckeyes something they have not had in years: a big-bodied, experienced center who should be physically capable of logging minutes against a Big Ten that is again loaded with post talent.
“I feel like people don’t understand how good Joey Brunk is,” third-year forward E.J. Liddell said. “He brings a lot to the table. He can finish with both hands really well and I feel like he’s going to exceed peoples’ expectations this year. Him and Zed battle every single day.”
His presence should allow Liddell to play almost exclusively at power forward, a major factor in his decision to return to Ohio State after going through the NBA draft process. He should also help shoulder some of the load that Young, who plays bigger than his 6-8, 225-pound frame, has had to carry in recent seasons.
“It’s been a really good spring and summer,” Brunk said at Ohio State media day prior to the start of the preseason. “To be 100% cleared and to have the summer I had, no setbacks and all of that, it’s been a really good feeling going into the season and getting to know all of my teammates and bond and all of that. All in all, just really looking forward to getting it rolling again.”
He will log significant minutes for the Buckeyes and push Key at every step.
Previous power rankings
No. 11 – Jimmy Sotos
No. 12 – Gene Brown III
No. 13 – Seth Towns
No. 14 – Harrison Hookfin
No. 15 – Kalen Etzler
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