Five-star forward Scotty Middleton joins Devin Royal, commits to Ohio State in 2023 class

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch

Scotty Middleton’s desire to better himself has driven him across multiple states. After playing in Miami as a freshman in high school, the five-star forward in the 2023 class left home, played his sophomore season in New Jersey and then made his way to Kansas to play for Wichita Sunrise Christian Academy.

Now, it will send him to Ohio State, as on Sunday Middleton announced his commitment to join the Buckeyes next season. He is the second significant recruiting target to commit to coach Chris Holtmann in five days, joining four-star forward Devin Royal from Pickerington Central, and the fourth member of what is now a top-five class nationally according to the composite database.

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What was it about the Buckeyes that endeared them to a Florida kid playing in Kansas by way of New Jersey? According to Middleton, it’s the fact that Holtmann and associate head coach Jake Diebler are willing to push him whether he plays well or not.

“Ohio State, every time I have a good game Diebler always texts me about how I can be better,” Middleton said. “Every time I have a bad game, he always texts me what I have to do to be better. I think it’s those little things that schools aren’t always consistent. I’m going to be away from my family so I wanted my college to feel like a second home, and I feel like that’s what Ohio State really feels like.”

Ohio State basketball recruits, from left, Scotty Middleton, a 2023 recruit, Roddy Gayle Jr. and Felix Okpara, both 2022 commits, watch the Buckeyes warm up prior to the NCAA men's basketball game against the Michigan Wolverines at Value City Arena in Columbus on March 6, 2022.

ESPN ranks the 6-foot-6, 195-pound Middleton as a five-star prospect and the No. 18 player in the nation. 247Sports has him as a four-star prospect and No. 34 nationally.

A versatile player who can score in multiple ways, Middleton also brings some significant defensive bite. That’s something he credited his coaches at Sunrise, which plays in the National Interscholastic Basketball Conference against seven other top-tier national prep schools.

“The coaches really emphasized it and I think I really bought in and wanted to guard the best players on the team,” Middleton said. “You’ve got to take it serious. I feel like defense is really everything in my game. It gets me going. When I’m playing bad some games and I can’t hit a shot or nothing’s falling, I rely on my defense.”

Chris Holtmann, Jake Diebler kept in constant contact with Scotty Middleton

Middleton played for Christopher Columbus High School in his hometown as a freshman but transferred to Hillside (New Jersey) The Patrick School in hopes of finding more consistent games while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. He made his debut in the 247Sports national rankings at No. 89 last July and steadily climbed as he got acclimated at Sunrise.

Ohio State offered him a scholarship that September.

“From there on, coach Diebler and coach Holtmann and the coaching staff contacted me every day just checking in, always talking to me, really,” he said. “They’ve been probably the only school that’s been consistent the whole way through the whole recruitment and everything. It’s been good, building that relationship with coach Diebler, coach Holtmann and with all the other coaches.”

That attention hasn’t just been about how he can rebound from a tough outing or do more after a strong one.

“Every game I play, coach Holtmann or coach Diebler always sends me something about the game,” he said. “They’ll send me a clip of me huddling my team or giving somebody some positive criticism or something. Just little things like that they value that I don’t feel like anyone else values.”

Scotty Middleton picks Ohio State over Seton Hall and UConn

Middleton’s final decision came down to Ohio State, Seton Hall and Connecticut. He took official visits to Seton Hall in mid-June and UConn during the weekend of June 24, and it wasn’t long after that Middleton said he realized where he wanted to go.

“I think it was a few weeks after that I knew,” he said. “I was just thinking about everything, pros and cons of every school. Ohio State is just perfect. The coaching, the fans, the family around it, how everything is there. Everybody loves Ohio State and it’s always consistent love. Good, bad, there’s always love there.”

Middleton took an official visit to Ohio State during the weekend of March 6. He was on campus alongside Felix Okpara and Roddy Gayle, two members of the 2022 class, and saw them recognized on the scoreboard during a timeout as the Buckeyes hosted Michigan.

It left an impression.

“I got to see that the fans showed them a lot of love during one of the timeouts,” he said. “It was really good to see that.”

At the time, he was already familiar with Gayle after playing his Mount Pleasant (Utah) Wasatch Academy team in the NIBC. Now, he’s also gotten familiar with Royal after attending a top-100 camp with him earlier this summer.

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Once the Pickerington Central product decided to commit to the Buckeyes, Middleton said the two started to talk about their chances to do something special together in college.

“Both of us going to Ohio State, that’s huge,” he said. “For me, I’m just really getting ready to put on a shot at a college like Ohio State. It’s amazing. When he told me he was gonna commit to Ohio State, I was like, ‘Let’s get it. Let’s go do something great.’ ”

One year from now, they’ll have that chance.


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