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Does Ibrahima Diallo’s transfer open the door for a last-second BOOM?

Following Diallo’s departure, Ohio State now has one open scholarship for the 2021-2022 season.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Late Monday afternoon, news broke that Ibrahima Diallo — the oft-injured, seldom used sophomore center — had entered the transfer portal. At 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds, Diallo entered the Ohio State basketball program two years ago as a very obvious developmental prospect. He was the No. 369 recruit in the 2019 recruiting cycle, and was targeted specifically due to his length and shot blocking ability.

Unfortunately, the rest of his game has yet to develop, as he wound up playing just 50 minutes over the course of his two seasons in Columbus. He scored 11 points, grabbed 19 rebounds, and blocked four shots across 13 games. In all fairness, Diallo dealt with an MCL that kept him sidelined for most of the past season, eliminating his chances of breaking into Chris Holtmann’s rotation down the stretch and hindering his development.

Diallo may be better suited for a smaller conference school or a JUCO in order to refine his offensive game, but he’ll be sorely missed by fans and his teammates alike. If you follow Ohio State men’s basketball closely on social media or even just watch the games, Diallo always seems to be with at least one — or more — of his teammates at all times of the day. When FOX or CBS televised Ohio State basketball games this past season and interviewed an OSU player, the answer to “Which teammate is the funniest?” was always answered with a resounding “Ibrahima Diallo.”

Diallo also gave us one of the sweetest, most genuine moments in recent memory back in July of 2019. Diallo left his native Senegal to pursue basketball in America as a high schooler, and had not seen his family in three years when he made a surprise trip home that summer to see them. It was all caught on tape, and immediately endeared him to all college basketball fans.

So while it’s a bummer to see Diallo move on for the fans and certainly for his teammates, we wish him nothing but the best wherever his travels take him. A fully healthy Diallo could be an asset to quite a few programs, and I really hope he gets the chance to flourish somewhere he can get some minutes.

But now that we’ve put the tissues down and wiped away our tears, let’s take a look at the X’s and O’s. Ohio State was maxed out on scholarships before Diallo left, and they now have one available scholarship. With injuries popping up constantly and COVID not even close to dead, there is effectively a 0% chance Chris Holtmann does not add another player to the roster following Diallo’s departure. The question is who, and how soon?


Efton Reid

Photo by Alexa Welch Edlund/ Richmond Times Dispatch

The first name that comes to mind is Efton Reid, the five-star center who was supposed to commit on April 15 but postponed his commitment indefinitely for reasons unknown. Reid has been extremely quiet with his recruiting the past several months, and didn’t even release a top schools list that would indicate which way he is leaning. He has zero crystal balls on 247 Sports, which is mind-boggling considering how far along Reid is in the recruitment process. He’s kept it close to the vest.....like.....really close.

Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch did report that Ohio State was in Reid’s final few schools according to a source close to Reid, but that source didn’t say which other schools were in the hunt. Virginia and Pittsburgh were rumored to be in the mix, while in-state powerhouse Florida State and certified bag man ™ Will Wade and his LSU Tigers made a late push, perhaps prompting Reid to postpone.

While it seems Ohio State could still be in the mix, the addition of Indiana center Joey Brunk complicates things. When Reid postponed his decision, the Ohio State coaching staff did the smart thing and went for the bird in the hand, adding size and experience in Brunk rather than rolling the dice on Reid and potentially ending up with nothing. Now that Diallo’s out of the picture, there is a scholarship available for Reid that wasn’t previously. But the new issue that could discourage Reid from choosing Ohio State is minutes.

Joey Brunk would not have chosen Ohio State if Chris Holtmann couldn’t ensure him that he would see consistent minutes, even if that was off the bench. And Efton Reid is not going to transfer to Ohio State knowing that he could lose minutes to both Brunk and Kyle Young. Could it still happen? Perhaps, but one of Kyle Young or Joey Brunk are going to be seeing quite the drop off in minutes if it happens. You don’t recruit a five-star center and then let him rot on the pine.


EJ Onu

Photo courtesy of mid-southconference.org

Based on Ohio State’s affinity for abbreviated first names (EJ, CJ, DJ, etc.) and the wild success they’ve had with their first EJ, it would make perfect sense for the Buckeyes to go out and land Shawnee State (NAIA) transfer center EJ Onu. After winning the NAIA national championship and scoring 16.9 points per game last season, Onu announced last week that he would enter the transfer portal and make the jump to Division-I hoops.

“I believe I’m an NBA talent, and I have a lot of things to prove and show that no matter what level you play at, you can play with anyone,” the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Onu told ESPN last week.

In addition to his scoring output, he also pulled down 8.1 rebounds and blocked 4.5 shots per game. He was his conference’s player of the year and is a three-time defensive player of the year in the Mid-South Conference. On top of all that, he shot 40% from three-point range last season.

While it’s hard to tell exactly how a player would adjust when they jump from NAIA all the way up to a power conference school like Ohio State, Onu appears to have the size and raw talent to contribute in a meaningful way in any major conference. In addition to the Buckeyes, Texas Tech, LSU, and Indiana have already contacted the Cleveland native.

While the in-state aspect may give Ohio State the tiniest of advantages, the complications that are present for Reid are also there for Onu. He likely isn’t going to transfer to any school where he’s competing to play 20 minutes per game, he’ll want to go to a school where he can walk in and that is the expectation. Ideally, he would transfer to a program where he’s one of the main cogs of an offense, showcasing his playmaking abilities to NBA scouts to prove he is a legitimate NBA prospect. I’m just not sure if that school is Ohio State, unfortunately.


One of the other hundreds of transfers still in the portal

Roughly 20% of all Division-I college basketball players entered the transfer portal this offseason, likely fueled by the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to COVID. There are tons and tons of centers and wings still available that could contribute to the 2021-2022 Buckeyes, just not on the level that the two men above would.

Realistically speaking, it probably won’t be Reid or Onu. They probably won’t find the minutes and role they’re both seeking at Ohio State. But if Holtmann can pull a rabbit out of his hat and bring one of them in, it would be a monumental recruiting win that would contribute to quite a few on-court wins next season.