To say that Chris Holtmann has had a good start at Ohio State would be a bit of an understatement. Since he was hired last June, it feels like the Ohio State Buckeyes basketball coach has done just about everything right, from a great first season, to two solid recruiting classes and the impressive development of a number of players. However, while his actually coaching acumen has driven a bunch of hype, for good reason, it may be what Holtmann is doing off the floor that’s so exciting.
Upon his arrival, Holtmann has made several efforts to reach out to students, be it buying them lunch at Raising Canes, or allowing students to come for free to big games, like tonight’s matchup with Syracuse. He’s also endeared himself to the fanbase as a whole with last week’s special throwback game in the beloved St. John Arena. If all that wasn’t enough, he’s back at it again, as yesterday, Holtmann announced that former head coach Thad Matta would be honored at tonight’s game.
We look forward to welcoming back the Matta family and recognizing Coach Matta’s extraordinary accomplishments at Halftime of tomorrow nights game vs. Syracuse. Please join us in welcoming back Thad, Barb, Ali and Emily Matta. pic.twitter.com/tymW403qQ4— Chris Holtmann (@ChrisHoltmann) November 27, 2018
This move, along with pretty much all of the other ones I mentioned, all tie into an overarching theme of the Chris Holtmann era. He’s building a program. Yes, Ohio State was already a good basketball school, but Holtmann wants to take it to the next level. The only way to do that is with buy-in from the fans, and with connections to the past of the program. That all establishes stability to support the talent, and set a winning precedent.
Recruits notice that. If there’s one thing, above all else in college basketball that sells recruits on a program, it’s stability, and Chris Holtmann is building that at Ohio State right now. We already saw his impact on the excellent 2019 class, and with plenty of talented players out there in 2020, it could be another big year as Ohio State transforms from a Big Ten contender to a national title contender.
Now, who might make up that 2020 class? Right now, it’s pretty tough to say. The only sure thing is Dominiq Penn, the son of former Buckeye point guard and current director of development Scoonie Penn. With Dom, it’s more of a when-not-if for his commitment, as he’ll likely be the point guard for the class.
However, the other two to three spots in the class are a bit more complicated. Ohio State would love to land in-state big man Zach Loveday, but he seems much more interested in Louisville than he does in Ohio State. Perhaps another great season from the Buckeyes changes that, but right now I don’t see it.
Behind him, Jaemyn Brakefield and Ben Carlson both have Buckeye interest, but seem likely to go to Kentucky in Brakefield’s case, or head to the west coast in Carlson’s. Again, a great season would certainly be a big sell for them, and as big men go, I think if Ohio State lands one in 2020, it’ll be one of the three mentioned here. My guess right now is Loveday.
The forward spot has a bit clearer of a hierarchy. Ohio State’s top forward target is Cam’ron Fletcher, and if they can pluck him out of Missouri they’d be more than satisfied with that. However, if he stays home as I expect, Ethan Morton and Che Evans are probably the best bets to take the spot, and the preference between the two probably just comes down to which one wants in first. I think Ohio State either ends up with Fletcher or Evans.
Back to guard, there are quite a few options. The dream for Ohio State is to pair five-star Georgia shooting guard Brandon Boston Jr. with Penn, but he’s a pretty heavy Duke lean right now. Behind him, Nimari Burnett, Noah Farrakhan and Jamal Mashburn Jr. have legitimate interest in Ohio State. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Holtmann flexes his muscles a bit and beats Duke out for Boston.
That gives Ohio State a class with four-star Dominiq Penn, five-star Brandon Boston, four-star Che Evans/Cam’ron Fletcher and four-star Zach Loveday. Obviously it’s not a sure thing that Ohio State lands any of those guys —save for Penn— but with the way Holtmann is building the program, I think a massive class like that is more possible than people think.