The transfer portal has been a hot cooker for big men the past few days, with names like Garrison Brooks, Liam Robbins, Walker Kessler, and many others finding new homes. Ohio State has been in contact with nearly all of them, as interior defense was a huge weakness for Chris Holtmann’s Buckeyes last season.
Ohio State was — and still is — considered one of the frontrunner’s for five-star center Efton Reid. However, after his commitment was postponed this week, Holtmann and company had no choice but to go out and secure a big man from the transfer portal, just in case Reid chooses to go elsewhere. The Buckeyes simply could not afford to roll the dice on Reid and fellow five-star center Chet Holmgren and wind up empty handed. Holmgren will be announcing his destination on Monday, but Gonzaga is the heavy favorite to land the lanky Minnesotan.
Enter: Joey Brunk.
Brunk, a 6-foot-11, 255 pound center from Indianapolis, Ind., originally committed to Butler and played for Chris Holtmann for one season (2016-2017) before Holtmann took the Ohio State job. He played two more seasons at Butler following Holtmann’s departure, averaging 5.0 points and 3.7 rebounds in just under 13 minutes per game.
He then transferred to Indiana before the 2019 season and played in 32 games for the Hoosiers, starting 31 of them. He averaged 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest that season, still playing just under 20 minutes per game. Brunk missed the entire 2020-2021 season due to a back injury that ended up requiring surgery before the season even began.
Rather than staying at Indiana and playing for new Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson, Brunk has elected to transfer to conference rival Ohio State and reconnect with Holtmann, the coach who recruited him to Butler six years ago. Brunk is utilizing the NCAA’s COVID-related eligibility clause that grants all athletes one additional year due to the abnormalities the pandemic brought this past season. After three seasons at Butler and two at Indiana, Brunk will now begin his sixth (and final) year of college basketball.
Regardless of whether Ohio State ends up landing Holmgren or Reid, the Buckeyes could not afford to wrap up the offseason without adding at least one post player to the roster. While Brunk isn’t much of a scoring threat (5.6 PPG on 56.1% shooting for his career), he’ll provide Chris Holtmann with a solid backup to Kyle Young down low. If Young was to get injured or foul out of a game, Brunk is more than capable of holding his own in the painted area.
With the addition of Brunk, Ohio State is now at the maximum number of scholarships allowed — 13. Adding Holmgren or Reid is not off the table, as Duane Washington Jr. and E.J. Liddell are currently going through the NBA Draft process, and either could end up leaving. It seems more likely that Liddell leaves than Washington, but the most likely outcome is that both return, solidifying the same nucleus that at one point last season had Ohio State all the way up to No. 4 in the AP Top-25 poll.
Per the NCAA’s COVID eligibility rules for next year, any player returning to their same team for the additional season does not count towards the scholarship limit (Sotos and Young). Players who are leaving to play for a different program do count towards the scholarship limit (Wheeler and Brunk).
If everything holds steady, and the roster sees no additional changes (with Liddell and Washington both returning, as expected), here is your 2021-2022 Ohio State men’s basketball roster:
- Meechie Johnson Jr. (So.)
- Jimmy Sotos (“COVID” Sr.)
- Eugene Brown (So.)
- Duane Washington Jr. (Sr.)
- Justin Ahrens (Sr.)
- Justice Sueing (RS Sr.)
- Ibrahima Diallo (Jr.)
- Zed Key (So.)
- Kyle Young (“COVID” Sr.)
- Seth Towns (RS Sr.)
- E.J. Liddell (Jr.)
- Malaki Branham (Fr.)
- Kalen Etzler (Fr.)
- Joey Brunk (“COVID” Sr.)
- Jamari Wheeler (“COVID” Sr.)
- Harrison Hookfin (Walk-on, Sr.)