Up next in the Land-Grant Holy Land player previews, we will tackle the two transfers Ohio State brought in. Joey Brunk from Indiana and Jamari Wheeler from Penn State.
Everyone knew that Ohio State would add some transfers to the team to bolster its depth and experience this offseason, but what people did not know was that they would not even have to leave the Big Ten to do it. Count these transfers as Chris Holtmann and his staff checking boxes of needs. First up of the transfers is the big man, Joey Brunk.
WHAT HE HAS DONE: Brunk has been one of Chris Holtmann’s guys for a while now, as Brunk was originally committed to head to Butler when Holtmann was an assistant and eventual head coach for the Bulldogs. After Holtmann took the job at Ohio State, Brunk stayed at Butler for three years then transferred to Indiana during the 2019-20 season. Injuries kept him out of last year’s pandemic season.
Brunk was productive during his one season at Indiana, giving the Hoosiers and Archie Miller the toughness that the Hoosiers desperately needed.
Brunk did not see a bunch of playing time his freshman and sophomore seasons at Butler, averaging just about seven minutes per game, seeing action in 27 total contests and starting none. During his first season, he averaged just three points per game, and in his second season, that number fell to just over a point per game. His rebounds did go up from one to just under two, however.
These were his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons as he took a hardship year in 2016-17, to deal with his father’s cancer diagnosis.
His junior season at Butler was when he started to gain his footing, playing in 33 games and starting 13 of those. He averaged a career best 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
Once he got to Indiana, he put more of a value on defense and rebounding in the rough and tumble Big Ten Conference. His scoring fell to 6.8 points per game in ‘19-20, but his rebounding jumped to 5.2 per game. This is where he can be most valuable to the Buckeyes.
WHAT’S NEXT: Next in Brunk’s plan is Columbus. A lot of Ohio State fans may view Brunk as some sort of consolation prize after they missed out on five-star prospect Efton Reid, but as long as Duane Washington and E.J. Liddell come back to Ohio State, this is a team that is ready to win right now and Brunk brings a veteran’s experience and a solid big man presence that the Buckeyes desperately need.
With Liddell likely focusing on playing power forward in order to prepare for the next level, Brunk’s presence down low — coupled with Zed Key’s development — will give Kyle Young a chance to save his body and not have to take the beating that he has during his OSU career.
Brunk is not going to suddenly become a huge scorer, but he can get rebounds by the plenty and be a destructive force on the defensive end of the basketball court, which would be huge for Ohio State. This will be a Buckeye team that is not in need of scoring, but will need rebounding and defensive help. Brunk will absolutely bring both of those traits to the table.
PROJECTED ROLE: Brunk will be utilized early and often, but I don’t think he will start. Between Young, Liddell (assuming he comes back), Key, and Brunk, the others will likely get the nod over him in the front-court.
Off the bench, however, I think that he will be turned to regularly. Even though he started most of the Hoosiers’ games during his one season in Bloomington, I don’t believe that he will be upset about coming off of the bench for the Buckeyes, since his ability to contribute for a legitimate contender should make up for it.
Over his past two seasons of action, Brunk averaged about 20 minutes per game, both as a starter and off the bench. I’d guess that he should get right around that number, and slightly more if Liddell heads to the pros. I would look for Brunk to play anywhere from 15-25 minutes per game — depending on Liddell — mainly taking some of the pressure off of Young and Key down low.
Brunk will also be a matchup guy, so in games where the Buckeyes are facing a formidable big man, he will play more and when the Buckeyes are facing a smaller and faster team, he will see less playing time.
Next up in the LGHL player preview series: Jamari Wheeler