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Ohio State recruiting: What will the 2021 men’s basketball class look like?

Chris Holtmann and his staff are off to a great start in the 2021 class with two top-150 commits. So what’s next?

Kalen Etzler

I am asking all fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes to disregard the fact that Chris Holtmann and company do not have a commitment in their 2020 class. I will have more on that topic later. In the meantime Buckeye fans should relish in the fact that Ohio State has two great in-state commitments in the 2021 class and are pursuing a number of great players in the Buckeye State—along with national prospects. Before we dive into some of the targets they are chasing, I will start off by giving a breakdown of the two commitments Ohio State has already.

The Commitments

Kalen Etzler pledged his services to Holtmann and the Buckeyes on May 12. Buckeye fans may recognize his last name because his uncle, Doug Etzler, was the captain of the Ohio State basketball team in 1995. In short, Etzler is from an Ohio State family and grew up a Buckeye fan dreaming about wearing an Ohio State jersey. Ohio State is getting a long, rangy shooter and post player in the 6-foot-8 Etzler. While Etzler is anything but a finished product, he will no doubt be a good player for Ohio State. With two more years of high school remaining, he has to continue to work on his ball-handling and adding the necessary strength to play in the post at the college level. Etzler currently weighs about 175 pounds and is hoping to be in the 195-200 pound range by the time he gets to Ohio State.

Off the court, Etzler is regarded by many as a great teammate. In Etzler Ohio state got a modern day stretch forward that is already a very good player, but also has a good amount of untapped potential. Buckeye fans should expect a very productive junior season for Etzler.

Meechie Johnson, a combo guard out of Garfield Heights High School in Cleveland, Ohio, is the second commitment in the ‘21 class.

When it comes to Johnson as a player, he is ultra talented. How ultra talented? Holtmann offered Johnson before he played a minute of high school basketball. Johnson is an elite level scorer; he can shoot the ball from all over the court, but is also a very impressive passer. However, he did suffer an ACL injury this past season, and that may have him off the court until Spring 2020. I did speak with Meechie’s father and he said his son is on track to be back to playing by October, but as a precaution, they may hold off until next AAU season. Obviously Ohio State is not worried about his injury, seeing as they accepted his commitment last week.

What comes next?

Now for the uncommitted prospects that Ohio State is pursuing in the class of 2021. Priority No. 1 for Holtmann and his staff is an in-state combo guard, Malaki Branham, out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. Branham’s rise began early in 2019 when he helped lead his high school team to the Division 1 state championship game. Then in the spring, Branham jumped onto the national stage with his AAU squad, NEO Tru Game, on the Nike EYBL circuit. There, he went from an under the radar guy to a top-100 prospect. He is a super long talent with a giant wingspan that allows him to play above the rim grabbing rebounds.

Quite possibly the biggest reason for Branham’s rise is his improved shooting ability, which has steadily improved since last high school season. Branham put this all on display at the ‘Nike Elite 100’ event in St. Louis last June. He drew rave reviews and was thought to be one of the best players at the event. Branham is now an Akron native but grew up in the Columbus area—a positive for Ohio State in his recruitment. While his recruitment is still wide open, I look for Ohio state’s current commits and coaches to put in an all out effort to secure the commitment of Ohio’s top player in the class of 2021.

Remember when it was mentioned that Branham helped lead his high school team to the Division 1 state championship game? Well, there’s another OSU target that played in that game. While Branham’s side lost to Moeller High School out of Cincinnati, that Moeller team held a relatively unknown underclassman post player named Logan Duncomb.

Duncomb, along with his Moller teammates, attended Ohio State’s team camp this summer. That is where he caught the eye of Ohio State’s coaching staff and head coach. After that camp, Holtmann made an offer to Duncomb. Similar to Branham, Duncomb had a good rise this past spring and summer with his Indiana elite team on the Adidas Showcase circuit.

Obviously for Ohio State, Duncomb’s rise culminated at their team camp in June. Interestingly enough, Duncomb was more of a role player for the Moeller team that beat Branham and ASVSM. With an expected increase in role this season, it will be interesting to see how Duncomb’s development as a leader influences Moeller. As for Duncomb’s recruitment, he will be a tough target for Ohio State to lock down—seeing as he grew up an Iowa Hawkeye fan. Combine that with family ties in Iowa, and Fran Mccaffery’s program may have the inside track. I am by no means saying Ohio State is out of it. But they will be in a hard fight for Duncomb and his commitment.

Ohio State is also pursuing a number of out-of-state targets, but I expect this class to be an Ohio rich one. Obviously Ohio State has two of these guys committed already and are in very good position for the other two. I expect Ohio State to land Branham then put on the full-court press for Duncomb. This class should have 3-4 recruits, and if all goes as planned, they’ll all be from the Buckeye State.