Is everybody enjoying the Chris Holtmann era yet? A little over a year after being hired to take over for Thad Matta at Ohio State, Holtmann has exceeded expectations once again today. After an awe-inspiring first season that saw the Buckeyes return to the NCAA Tournament, finish second in the Big Ten, and produce a Big Ten Player of the Year, the future looked bright.
An excellent 2018 class, headlined by future stars like Luther Muhammad and Jaedon LeDee added more to the hype. Landing five-star Cleveland forward Alonzo Gaffney back in April felt like a sign of things to come in the 2019 class, and today, Holtmann blew the whole damn roof off, as five-star point guard D.J. Carton committed to Ohio State.
We’ll get into what makes Carton so good, and what this means for the future in Columbus, but I think it’s important to reflect on just how fast this has all happened. In July of 2016, Ohio State was coming off of a 21-14 season and a second round NIT loss to Florida. They returned a lot of players, but their recruiting class wasn’t anything special.
In May of 2017, Ohio State was in an even darker place. They’d gone 17-15, held just one commitment in the 2017 class, and had lost a commitment from 2018 five-star Darius Bazley just a month earlier. That was 14 months ago. It took Chris Holtmann 14 months to pull Ohio State up from their worst season in 14 years and back to one of the nation’s most exciting programs.
It may be Carton’s commitment that puts them over the top and returns them to college basketball’s elite class, like they were in 2006 and from 2009 to 2012. A new golden age may be upon us. What does the new face of that movement bring to Columbus?
On the court
Carton is exactly what you’d expect from a modern five-star point guard. He’s a fantastic athlete, with elite quickness, straight-line speed, and an ability to dunk, despite being just 6-foot-1. That athleticism makes him ideal for what Holtmann wants in a point guard. Because of how fast he is, he can blow by defenders and finish at the hoop with ease.
However, Carton isn’t just an offensive player. He’s got great lateral quickness as well, and can stay in front of anybody that he’s guarding. He doesn’t have elite hands, and he’ll never be an Aaron Craft-level defender, but he’ll never be a liability. He’s more than capable of guarding at a Big Ten level, and he has the potential to develop into an elite defender. That’s all OSU needs.
Offensively, it’s a much different story. Carton is one of the best scorers in the country, and will bring a ton of skill and ability to Ohio State. He’s got elite handles, and the explosiveness to make him nearly impossible to guard off of the dribble. Once he gets to the hoop, he’s a great finisher, making acrobatic layups over bigger defenders with ease and consistency.
If finishing isn’t his best ability, passing definitely is. Carton might be as good of a passer as D’Angelo Russell was when he was at Ohio State. He’s capable of throwing great lead passes, can drive and kick with accuracy, and loves running in transition, launching cross-court bounce passes like it’s nothing. He’s a great court general, which Ohio State hasn’t had since Russell.
The only real thing I can find wrong with his offense is his shooting, but even that isn’t a big issue. He’s got a nice stroke, and can knock down threes, he just has some consistency issues. That’ll come with age, and Ohio State doesn’t need him to be a knockdown shooter by any means. I think he’ll hover around 35% from three, and that’s all they need from a point guard.
At 6-foot-1, 189 pounds, Carton’s a bit on the small side, but this isn’t the NBA. I don’t think it’ll be an issue at Ohio State. With how strong he is, and how much intensity he plays with, I think he’ll be more than willing and capable to face off against bigger players, and will likely come out on top against them more often than not.
In the class
Ohio State’s 2019 class could be one of the best in school history. Carton and Gaffney are ranked 21st and 30th respectively at 247Sports, and just those two puts Ohio State at fourth nationally in the team rankings. With one or two more spots still open, this class will get even better, and will almost certainly finish in the top five.
Where do those last commitments come from? Well, the main target left for Ohio State is absolutely Illinois power forward E.J. Liddell. They’re in a battle with Missouri for his pledge, but landing another top player in Carton will go a long way in Liddell’s recruitment. These top recruits all know each other, and playing with other elite prospects is a big deal in college basketball recruiting.
Outside of him, it’s a bit of a blur. If Ohio State does want a fourth man in this class, it’ll probably be a big man, and that could come from a number of guys. Right now, the two most likely seem to be Minnesota forward Zeke Nnaji or Indiana center Trayce Jackson-Davis, though Ohio State doesn’t lead for either at this point.
If they can’t get back into it with either of those guys, they may reevaluate to try to find another big, or they may just roll with three in 2019, if they do end up landing Liddell. Whatever they do, this is going to be a massively important class at Ohio State, and when looking at everyone that’ll be back, it’s not hard to see Ohio State competing for a title in 2019 when Carton and Gaffney arrive.