To say it was a great day for Ohio State basketball would be a pretty massive understatement. For the first time since 2014, Ohio State has landed a five-star prospect, and for the first time since 2010, that five-star hails from the Buckeye State. Garfield Heights star Alonzo Gaffney is Ohio State’s next star, and another massive win for a coaching staff rapidly picking up Ws.
Gaffney, a 6’9, 190 pound power forward is ranked as the 18th best player in the country for 2019, the third best power forward, and the best player in Ohio, and while the rankings are great, he’s even better than they say. Gaffney is Ohio State’s highest ranked commit since D’Angelo Russell, and when you look at his film, it’s easy to see why.
It’s not bold at all to say that Gaffney will have just as big of an impact as a freshman as star rookies like Russell or Jared Sullinger, in fact, it may be fair to assume that he could be even better. Let’s take a look at why that is, and what he brings to Columbus.
On the court
The first thing that shows up on Gaffney’s film is just how long he is. He’s a legitimate 6-foot-9, and may be closer to 6-foot-10; and, with a wingspan easily longer than 7 feet, he’ll be one of the biggest players in the Big Ten as soon as he steps on campus. Gaffney certainly doesn’t just thrive because of his size however, and he has learned how to use his length as a bonus, rather than as his whole game.
That size is extremely beneficial to him defensively, where he spends entire games terrorizing opponents inside. When he’s on the floor, there are absolutely no easy layups, and while he isn’t a great perimeter defender, he’s as skilled of a shot-blocker as anyone in the class of 2019.
While his defense is solid, if not a bit one-dimensional, his offense is where Gaffney really shines. There’s not a shot past half court that Alonzo doesn’t like, and more often than not, he’ll knock those shots down. He’s great at getting to the hoop because of his solid dribbling and fantastic athleticism, and will almost never struggle to finish at the basket.
Shockingly enough, finishing at the hoop may not even be his best offensive asset by the time he’s done in Columbus. Gaffney has a beautiful shooting stroke from outside, and when he’s shooting with confidence, he’s extremely capable of being a sharpshooter. He’ll have to work through inconsistency issues shooting the ball, as many freshmen do, but when he’s on, he’s just as good at shooting as another former Buckeye wing: Keita Bates-Diop.
Gaffney has said that a big reason for his decision was the job that Chris Holtmann and his staff did in developing KBD, and if Gaffney becomes a more athletic version of the Big Ten Player of the Year, you won’t find an upset Buckeye fan in the country.
On the roster
Gaffney’s presence in 2019 will give Ohio State a ton of flexibility. Barring any unforeseen changes, Ohio State should have CJ Walker, Luther Muhammad, Justin Ahrens, Alonzo Gaffney, Kaleb Wesson, Andre Wesson, Musa Jallow, Kyle Young, Duane Washington, Jaedon Ledee, and Micah Potter all ready to play, along with at least one or two more 2019 recruits.
It’s not hard to envision a team with that much talent contending for a national title, especially if the classes of 2017 and 2018 can develop during the 2018-19 season, which many see as a rebuilding year. If that happens, and the Buckeyes come into the 2019 season fully loaded, the addition of Gaffney allows the coaching staff to deploy numerous situational lineups. Let’s take a look at what those could look like.
Starters: CJ Walker, Luther Muhammad, Musa Jallow, Alonzo Gaffney, Kaleb Wesson
I don’t expect to see Kaleb Wesson and Alonzo Gaffney of the floor together very often. That much size in the front court would be balanced out by a fairly small backcourt, but ultimately, Wesson’s inside the paint, interior-centered game takes away spacing from Gaffney that he needs to get to the hoop. This is probably the most talented lineup, but I don’t expect to see it a ton.
Small Ball: Duane Washington, Musa Jallow, Luther Muhammad, Jaedon LeDee, Alonzo Gaffney
Gaffney and LeDee are good enough interior defenders and and rebounders for this small lineup to work, specifically when Ohio State is looking to spread the floor. Good shooters in the backcourt make for a very dangerous group that could create comebacks.
Defense: Luther Muhammad, Musa Jallow, Andre Wesson, Jaedon LeDee, Alonzo Gaffney
Another smaller lineup, but this group has a ton of athleticism, length, and defensive ability. Three great wing defenders, a dominant inside presence, and a lockdown guard defender in Muhammad makes this a great lineup against dangerous offenses.
Shooting: Duane Washington, Luther Muhammad, Justin Ahrens, Alonzo Gaffney, Micah Potter
All five players on the floor can shoot the ball from outside, and while they may struggle on defense, it’s almost impossible to guard five great shooters like this.
Bully ball: Luther Muhhamad, Andre Wesson, Alonzo Gaffney, Kyle Young, Kaleb Wesson
Not very practical, but against a team without much shooting, but a ton of size (think Kentucky 2017), this lineup can do some serious damage inside. All five players are very capable at getting to the hoop and playing physically, and could serve as a steadying force if the outside shots aren’t falling.
With all of these possibilities, and many more, it’s hard to not be excited about what Ohio State will look like in 2019. No matter what Chris Holtmann and his staff decide to do, now is the time to jump on the Buckeye bandwagon, because it’s about to leave the station.