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When J.T. Tuimoloau was in Columbus for his official visit with the Ohio State football team in mid-June, it was reported that he had also met with Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann, and it looks like that might have been a good thing for Ryan Day and Larry Johnson.
As you undoubtedly know by now, Tuimoloau — the No. 3 overall player in the country according to 247Sports Composite Rankings, and No. 1 in 247’s individual rankings — announced on Sunday that he will play football for the Buckeyes.
But, after renowned recruiting graphic artist Hayes Fawcett released the official J.T.T. commitment edit, it seems like the five-star defensive end plans on playing more than football for the Scarlet and Gray.
BREAKING: Five-Star DL J.T. Tuimoloau has Committed to Ohio State, he tells @On3Recruits and live on @cbssportshq— Hayes Fawcett (@Hayesfawcett3) July 4, 2021
The #1 Player in the class of 2021 chose the Buckeyes over Oregon, Washington, and USC.
Tuimoloau will play basketball for the Buckeyes as well. pic.twitter.com/dKTtekfGnF
In addition to meeting with Holtmann last month, Tuimoloau also held basketball-specific offers from Oregon and Washington. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that both of those schools had football teams that were also very much trying to lure him to campus, but they were legit DI offers nonetheless.
If he does end up playing both sports, J.T.T. will become the first Buckeye to play both football and basketball since former OSU and Carolina Panthers safety Nate Salley did it in 2002-03. However, Salley only played in 10 basketball games and averaged 0.8 points per contest. The last player to have an impact for both Ohio State teams was Ricky Dudley who averaged 13.4 points per game for the basketball Buckeyes in 1994-95, and then in the fall of ‘95 had 37 receptions for 575 yards and seven touchdowns.
Since the @HayesFawcett3 graphic, many people online have been suspicious about whether or not it is a good idea for Ryan Day to allow J.T.T. to play both sports or not. And since you passively asked for my opinion on the matter by opening this article, I will repeat what you’ve already read in the headline: If J.T. Tuimoloau wants to play basketball, Day and the football program should not only let him do it, but they should support him in any way possible to make it happen.
Would J.T.T. playing basketball result in a higher risk of injury for the five-star stud? Yes, of course. Let him do it anyway.
Will his body need the recovery time after a grueling football season before getting back to training in the spring or summer? Obviously. Let him do it anyway.
Could playing basketball potentially hamper his development as a football player, thus preventing him from reaching his ceiling in the NFL Draft? It absolutely could. Let him do it anyway.
I’ve coached sports at all levels — club, high school, and college — and I have worked in the front office of a professional sports team (shout out to the Chicago Bandits), and, to me, I might not like it from a competitive standpoint, but this is absolutely a no-brainer.
The thing is, coaches should have different rules for different players. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that better players should be able to get away with more than their teammates, or that coaches should bend or break their own rules for their most talented athletes, but what I’m saying is that aside from a few hard and fast disciplinary rules, everything else should be malleable based on the individual and the situation.
Being a coach should always be about more than winning; obviously the higher up the ranks you climb, the more important winning becomes, but a coach — no matter the level or sport — should never lose sight of the fact that their job is to help their players. If J.T.T. believes that it is in his best interest to bounce over to the basketball court after helping lead Ohio State to a national championship in mid-January (and Holtmann agrees), then it is something that Day and the football staff should do everything in their power to help facilitate.
The Ohio State football program — and really the entire athletic department — prides itself on developing its athletes in ways outside of competition; whether its the recent job fair, character building events, Real Life Wednesdays, etc., part of the OSU football program’s brand is seeing players as more than just a means to a win, and meeting them where they are as individuals.
So, if Tuimoloau made it clear to Day and Johnson that playing basketball was extremely important to him, and that he understood the commitment and sacrifice that it would require, and had considered the risk that it could pose to his career — both in college and in the pros — then it would be hypocritical for the Buckeye staff to prevent him from doing it.
To be honest, I would be surprised if J.T.T. would have ended up in Columbus in the first place had Day been adamantly against the five-star recruit playing basketball as well; and I guess that proves my point about how important this clearly is to him.
Bottom line: Coaches are there to serve players, not the other way around. So if it is feasible to make this happen for Tuimoloau, then the football staff should make it happen.
That being typed, I still have doubts that it actually will happen; not because Day will forbid it, or that Holtmann will decide that he doesn’t want J.T.T. on the team, but instead because of what Tuimoloau will have to go through before he can get to the basketball court.
As elite of an athlete as J.T.T. is, there is still a dramatic jump from the high school to FBS Power 5 level when it comes to the physicality inflicted on football players’ bodies. And given that he will not come into fall camp with the benefit of spending months (or likely even a month) having his body put through Mickey Marotti’s crucible, I would not be surprised if Tuimoloau decides at the end of the football season that it would be in his best interest to take some time to recuperate before spring practice rolls around.
But who knows, perhaps that decision comes after he’s played a year of basketball, or two years of football and he decides to make a business decision and do everything he can to prepare himself for the NFL Draft following his junior season.
A lot will change between now and January for Tuimoloau, so whether or not he suits up for Holtmann is yet to be seen, but there are two things that I know:
1) If Ryan Day wants to preach that his program is family, it would be pretty damning if he didn’t help one of his players achieve his dream simply because it could potentially hurt the football program.
2) If J.T. Tuimoloau does end up playing basketball for Ohio State, I will be cheering like crazy when he gets on the floor for the first time, and if/when he throws down a dunk at the Schottenstein Center, that place might erupt (or get as close to erupting as the Schottenstein Center can).