Basketball is maybe the most difficult to project talent in when you’re looking at young players. Because so much of basketball is centered around size, and almost every major skill in the sport can be developed, some players are very difficult to get a read on. It’s hard to gauge too much when a player is still very early in their high school career, because they still have growing to do, both literally and from a basketball skill perspective.
I think that’s important to remember when looking at Ohio State’s newest commitment, 2021 power forward Kalen Etzler. Etzler is ranked well by every major recruiting service, and his film lines up with that, but this is still a rising junior. He’s still extremely young, and he has a lot of basketball to play before he gets to Ohio State, so a lot of his “scouting report” is projection and scraping from not a whole lot of film.
On top of that, Etzler is listed at 6-foot-8, 195 pounds. Firstly, he doesn’t look 195 pounds, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the real number was closer to 180. Because he’s still so young, that isn’t a huge deal yet. However, he’s been playing at such a low weight thus far in his career, and it’s hard to say what he’ll look like when Ohio State asks him to bulk up to a more substantial number, probably around 220.
With all that said, there is still information to be gleaned from watching Etzler, and without saying too much, I think it’s pretty easy to see what Ohio State likes in their newest commitment.
On the court
Etzler is a prototypical stretch four, and will serve as a stretch four at Ohio State. He’s tall enough to hold his own inside, and more than athletic enough to score at the hoop and defend it on the other end. He’s not going to be an elite shot blocker or anything like that, but I think he’ll be able to defend anyone Ohio State wants to match him up with on the inside.
So, what about that “stretch” part of the stretch four title? Well, Etzler certainly flashes jumpshot capability. He has a nice, repeatable motion on threes, and seems more than willing to shoot on the outside, either from three or mid-range. I don’t think he’s ever going to be an elite three point shooter, but I could see him shooting about 35 percent from three, and that’s about everything Ohio State could ask for. Holtmann likes bigs that can shoot, and Etzler can shoot.
Now, we know that Etzler can knock down shots, but I’m a little bit more concerned about his ability to create shots. His handles are decent at best, which is to be expected from a young power forward, but they’ll have to improve at the next level for him to consistently attack the hoop. He’s a tremendous athlete, with good straight line speed and explosiveness, but I’m not sure he has the quickness to really slash to the hoop.
In terms of practical usage, that specific skill set probably means that Etzler will hover around the baseline, move out to hit corner threes, and serve as a zone buster and matchup nightmare. I don’t see him as capable of being the number one scorer on any team, but he can be an excellent compliment for a team with at least one great scorer, and it’s fair to assume that Ohio State will have that by the time he arrives.