Lifelong Ohio State fan Tanner Holden ready for new chapter after Wright State transfer

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch

Entering the transfer portal sets off a flurry of activity. It can be overwhelming, especially in the first 24 hours or so when the notification goes out and an avalanche of messages starts to pour in.

Last Tuesday, Tanner Holden found out for himself what it was like.

The first phone call Tanner Holden received when he entered the transfer portal was from Ohio State.

"A couple minutes after (entering the portal), Ohio State was the first call,” Holden said. “It just happened to be Ohio State. While I’m talking to Ohio State, other schools are calling, so it was definitely a stressful first day because your phone is blowing up.

“You’d rather have your phone blowing up than no one calling.”

Holden took more calls and had plenty of conversations with his family. The end result was a Saturday announcement that the prolific scoring guard from Wright State had committed to the Buckeyes, giving them their first addition in what figures to be a busy offseason. Ohio State could be replacing as many as 10 players due to graduation and early entry into the NBA draft, and with a five-man recruiting class signed, coach Chris Holtmann is in the market for as many as three impact transfers.

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The 6-6, 185-pound Holden would seem to fit that bill. A two-time first-team All-Horizon League pick, Holden averaged 20.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as a junior. He poured in 37 points, his second-highest scoring game of the season, to help Wright State beat fellow No. 16 seed Bryant in a First Four NCAA Tournament game played at nearby University of Dayton Arena.

Tanner Holden scored 37 points for Wright State in an NCAA Tournament game against No. 16 seed Bryant.

He finished the season ranked 19th in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, according to, and he shot 78.9% from the free-throw line on 280 attempts, the second-highest total in the nation.

Holden admits the decision to transfer from Wright State was influenced by second-leading scorer Grant Brasile also deciding to transfer.

“I just felt that if I wanted to make it to the next level, some resources that other schools had and the competition I’d be facing every single night could definitely help me,” he said. “It’s always hard to leave a school that you put so much effort into where the coaches pour so much into you but at the end of the day, it’s a business. I felt this was the one decision I made for myself to better me and then my family, to reach my potential.

“I felt it was a good decision, but in no way, shape or form was it an easy decision.”

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Tanner Holden grew up as an Ohio State fan

A native of Wheelersburg, Ohio, Holden grew up an Ohio State fan 100 miles south of Value City Arena. His father, Rodney, was inducted into Marshall University’s athletics hall of fame following his stellar basketball career, and his sister, Sydney, scored more than 1,200 points at Division II school Rio Grande.

He described basketball as his first love, even as his football abilities in high school led him to consider taking to the gridiron in college.

By the time he committed fully to basketball, much of his recruitment had passed him by. Now, with an opportunity to be recruited again, Holden found himself visiting Ohio State’s campus one day after entering the portal. It was the only visit he was able to take prior to the start of a seven-day recruiting dead period that runs from March 31 through April 7.

Tanner Holden averaged 20.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game for Wright State as a junior.

“I needed things like nutritionists to get my weight up, to be more physical and get stronger, and a coaching staff that wanted to see me succeed and get to the next level and push me and help me with my weaknesses and be there for the grind of it,” he said. “When I went to Ohio State, it felt like home. I’m still close to home and all the resources we were looking for were all right there in your back pocket. It was definitely a joy to see that and to be able to have that.”

Since the season’s end, Holtmann has been working with one full-time assistant in Jake Diebler while in the process of hiring former Miami coach Jack Owens to fill one of the two vacancies on his staff. Special assistant to the head coach Mike Netti is likely to be hired as the third coach, and both positions are likely to be announced this week.

Holden said he spent a lot of time with Diebler, who was the first coach to call him, and Holtmann while on his visit.

“We all got to talk and get a feel for what they think about their program, the things that they do and it definitely hit home,” he said. “It's definitely stressful because it is happening so quick, but I felt that coach Holtmann is a genuine person and a genuine coach. He was preaching trust, and I thought that was really good because he really means it. He really wants the best for all his players, and the support that Ohio State has is amazing.”

Tanner Holden scored 37 points in an NCAA Tournament game against No. 16 seed Bryant.

Holden's exact role on the team has yet to be determined. Will the guard start or come off the bench? Is he a go-to scorer or complementary scorer? Much will depend on what happens once he arrives on campus later this spring and starts working with his new teammates.

Holden said he is familiar with redshirt freshman Kalen Etzler, having played AAU basketball with Etzler's older brother, now a Miami RedHawks forward, Javin. But Holden knows little about the rest of the roster. With so many new faces, that hardly makes him unique.

Asked what he hopes fans will see when he gets to OSU, Holden said, “A kid who loves to play the game. A kid who plays hard. Willing to do whatever it takes to win. A selfless person who wants to do whatever it is to win games for his team. I hope I can make a big impact on the team and be a good leader throughout the season, and hopefully, we can win a lot of games and make a big run in the tournament because I know coach Holtmann has built a great program at Ohio State. I think this team’s just looking to build on that, for sure.”


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