Since landing D.J. Carton in July, Ohio State has spent the past few months looking for the perfect final recruit to add to their 2019 class. With a true point guard in Carton and a scoring wing in Alonzo Gaffney already in the class, Chris Holtmann and his staff knew they needed a physical, dominant big to really put a bow on an awesome class, and fill the hole left by Jae’Sean Tate’s departure.
Ohio State thinks they’ve found that perfect fit in Belleville, Illinois power forward E.J. Liddell, and after months of recruiting, he announced his commitment to Ohio State today.
You really couldn’t draw up the 2019 class, or Liddell’s fit in it any better than Holtmann did. If Ohio State’s 2019-20 roster has three big needs, it’s a true point guard after losing C.J. Jackson and Keyshawn Woods following this season; a go to scorer on the wings; and a grinder that can defend the pain, grab boards and score in the paint. They got all three. Let’s look at what the likely final commitment in this class, Liddell, brings to Columbus.
On the court
Watching Liddell play basketball brings back memories of playground basketball, in which the tallest, strongest kid was very obviously the best player on the floor, and was going to get whatever he wanted all game long because no one was going to stop him (I was not that kid, which is obvious because I’m a sports writer). He plays with the kind of aggression, strength and overall athleticism that hardly seems possible.
At 6-foot-7, 220 pounds (he seems closer to 230, however), Liddell is more often than not the fastest, strongest and biggest player on the floor, and while he won’t have that luxury in college, his physical ability will absolutely transition well to the next level. He’s a fantastic jumper, elevating far above the rim to finish contested dunks and embarrass hapless defenders.
If stopping him from finishing at the hoop is tough, keeping away from it may be even tougher. He doesn’t have great handles, but he’s a capable dribbler, and his smooth, fluid motion combined with a ton of strength and confidence make him a nightmare to matchup with one on one. You cannot stop this kid without help inside, and even then, you can only hope to slow him down. Throw in his court vision, a pretty decent ability to shoot from midrange, and his basketball IQ, and you’ve got a player that, with some development, can become a scoring machine.
While his offense may take a little bit of development to become a bit more well rounded, his defense is college ready today. His great vertical allows him to erase layup attempts with ease, rising up and swatting pretty much anyone that dares to come into his paint. He’s a capable rebounder, and when he learns how to control his body a bit more, he’ll only get better.
To summarize it concisely, and using some of that streetball lingo that was so often used to describe that kid that was bigger and stronger than everyone else, the high school version of E.J. Liddell is a baaaaad man. The Ohio State version could be even better. That’s terrifying.
In the class
Liddell, as mentioned before, is the third and likely final member of the 2019 Ohio State class. He joins five-star D.J. Carton and four-star Alonzo Gaffney in the class, and his pledge jumps Ohio State’s class up to fourth in the country, all the way from 13th. This is the first Buckeye class since 2010 that held three top-50 players (that class had Jared Sullinger, DeShaun Thomas and Jordan Siebert).
Liddell picked Ohio State over the home-state Illinois Fighting Illini, and the not-too-far Missouri Tigers. Ultimately, Ohio State’s ability to develop players (like Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate), and the relationship Liddell had with Holtmann and the rest of the staff were the difference makers.
Liddell’s addition is obviously a big one because of his talent, but he becomes even more important when you consider the team he’ll be walking on to in 2019. Barring any surprising developments, that roster will have both Wesson brothers, Micah Potter, C.J. Walker, Musa Jallow, Kyle Young, Luther Muhammad, Justin Ahrens, Jaedon LeDee, Duane Washington, Alonzo Gaffney, D.J. Carton and Liddell. That’s a national championship contender. It’s a good time to be a Buckeye basketball fan.
You can read more about Liddell’s commitment here, and watch his highlights below.