If there was one true question about Chris Holtmann when the Ohio State Buckeyes hired him back in the summer of 2017, it was about his ability to recruit at an Ohio State level. Holtmann was a proven in-game coach, a proven talent developer and assessor, and a proven program builder. However, he was coming from Butler, where the recruiting competition is, to put it frankly, different. It’s a different world. Different kind of players. It wasn’t a fair question, but it was a question. Holtmann had few ties to Ohio State, and he was going to be expected to recruit the best of the Buckeye state immediately.
He responded, of course, by landing Kaleb Wesson and Kyle Young, the top two players in the state in 2017; Justin Ahrens, No. 7 in 2018; Alonzo Gaffney in 2019; and now, a few years out, two of the state’s best players in the class of 2021: forward Kalen Etzler, and as of last night, point guard Meechie Johnson. Holtmann hasn’t been perfect in-state, but he’s made up for it with great national recruiting, and in 2021, he’s making a serious dent in Ohio State. The Buckeyes lead for Malaki Branham as well, so we could see a full sweep in that group of Ohio talent.
That may be getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Ohio State does have a recent commitment to talk about, and there’s a lot to be said about Garfield Heights star guard Meechie Johnson.
On the court
In Johnson, Ohio State is getting something that they really haven’t had in a very, very long time, going back as far to Scoonie Penn: an undersized scoring machine at point guard. DJ Carton could be a similar player, but I’m not even convinced that he has the microwave scoring ability that Johnson does, despite his less than stellar 5-foot-11, 160-pound frame.
Johnson can score just about any way imaginable. He has a silky smooth jumper with a release quick enough that he he can fire from just about anywhere, and he seems capable of knocking down threes on- or off-ball, similar to the way Ohio State used C.J. Jackson’s shooting ability. He probably isn’t going to knock down 40 percent of his threes, but his ability to pull up quickly and knock down shots makes him extremely dangerous.
That danger doesn’t just come from his shooting ability, but his quickness as well, because the defense has to consider both when guarding him. Meechie has an extremely quick first step off the dribble, and is always a threat to take his man to the hoop, which means that he really can’t be covered how you would cover a typical three-point threat, because he can get to the hoop with ease.
Now, there are some questions about Meechie’s defense and playmaking ability, as well as his strength at the hoop, but there aren’t many smoother offensive players in the 2021 class than Johnson. He plays like he was born to score, and Ohio State could really use a player like that, even if he never develops into a completely well rounded player, which he still very well could, because he has two more years of high school left.
In the class
Johnson is the second member of the 2021 class, along with Crestview power forward Kalen Etzler. The two Ohio products actually pair extremely well together, and showcase the potential future of Chris Holtmann’s Ohio State program: lots of shooting.
Johnson likely isn’t the last Ohio product in this class either when all is said and done. Malaki Branham is, as mentioned, heavily leaning Ohio State, and could commit at basically anytime. Ohio State wants four in 2021, and if they land Branham, that fourth player would likely be a center, and they could complete the all Ohio class with Charles Bediako or Logan Duncomb, though right now I don’t think either is set in stone.
It is, after all, quite a bit of time out from the 2021 class signing on with their program of choice. Ohio State has plenty of time to fill out this class, but Holtmann and staff is off to one hell of a start.