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Ohio State basketball prepares for big end to 2019 class

Can Chris Holtmann close out one of the best classes in school history?

Omar Payne
Jody Demling, Cardinal Authority, 247Sports

The start of the Chris Holtmann era has had quite a few highs, and very few lows. Despite a disappointing loss to Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA tournament last year, and three losses to one team in a single season (Penn State), news around Ohio State’s basketball program has been overwhelmingly positive since Holtmann was hired last June.

While Holtmann wasn’t heralded as a big recruiter, a lot of the positivity around the program has come from his recruiting, and after a solid 2018 class, Holtmann seems to have really found a groove in Columbus in the 2019 class. With the early signing period coming up in just under two months, Ohio State holds two commitments in that 2019 class from five star guard DJ Carton and four star wing Alonzo Gaffney.

While those two alone would make for an awesome class (and have the Buckeyes sitting at 10th nationally), Ohio State is looking for one or two more prospects to add to the group. Whoever the Buckeyes add will likely be a big man to go with the smaller counterparts (though calling Gaffney or Carton small would just be wrong).

With that in mind, Ohio State is really starting to key in on adding a third member before the signing period begins. We talked yesterday about Minnesota power forward Zeke Nnaji and his upcoming in-home visit with the Buckeyes, but today we have yet another big man to talk about. This time, it’s Montverde (FL) center Omar Payne.

Payne was expected for a visit this coming weekend originally, but as indicated in the tweet, that visit was moved further back as a result of a scheduling conflict. Chris Holtmann visited Payne just days ago, according to Rivals, and seems to be fighting hard to land the four-star big man.

While Nnaji and Payne are certainly options, I still think the favorite to take that third spot is power forward EJ Liddell. Liddell included Ohio State in his top three a week ago, along with Illinois and his home state team, Missouri. Liddell is expected to announce his commitment soon, and at this point, my prediction is that he picks the Buckeyes.

Back to Garfield Heights

While the Buckeyes look to finish of their 2019 class with a big man, they’re also looking ahead to the future, and specifically the 2021 class. After having success recruiting Garfield Heights (near Cleveland) when they went in and landed Alonzo Gaffney earlier this year, Ohio State wants to make further in-roads.

While Gaffney has since moved onto Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, Ohio State still has a good relationship with quite a few of the players at Garfield Heights, and perhaps most importantly, the coach of the program, Sonny Johnson. Johnson, a former Mr. Ohio winner and Ohio Bobcat has developed quite the program at Garfield Heights.

Part of that program, and seemingly the future of the program, is Johnson’s nephew Meechie Johnson, and his son, freshman Sonny Johnson Jr. Ohio State has offered the former, and will likely be offering the latter as he gets older. On Monday, Ohio State assistant Ryan Pedon checked in on the young duo.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Ohio State was to land both Meechie and Sonny Jr, and they may look at 2020 forward Brent Darby Jr, the son of the late Brent Darby, a former Buckeye guard under Jim O’Brien.

Quick hits

  • Ohio State extended an offer to 2020 three-star tackle Zak Zinter. I expect he’ll visit Columbus at some point this season, but he seems like a long shot at this point.
  • Five-star safety Daxton Hill committed to Michigan. He listed Ohio State in his top six, but was never seriously considering Ohio State.