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Ohio State men’s basketball eyeing trio of versatile forwards to round out 2023 recruiting class

Ohio State’s two-man class has room for a few more members.

Photo courtesy of Michael McCammon/247Sports

As we inch closer to the 2022-23 season, recruiting will hone in on the class of 2023 as many of the nation’s top players still are uncommitted. Ohio State, which had the No. 12 class in the country for the 2022 cycle, currently has the No. 5 class in the country in 2023. Their two-man class consists of four-star combo guard George Washington III (No. 46 overall) and four-star center Austin Parks (No. 90 overall).

Moving forward, the Buckeyes should be set at center with Zed Key, Felix Okpara, and Parks all projected to be on the 2023-24 roster. They also should have enough guard depth with Bruce Thornton, Tanner Holden, Roddy Gayle, Bowen Hardman, and Washington all on the 2023-24 roster as well. However, with Seth Towns and Justice Sueing both moving on, Ohio State will need to add some depth at both the small forward and power forward positions. Coincidentally, the Buckeyes do not have a forward in their 2023 class yet. That will change soon.

While Chris Holtmann and staff could certainly shock us and lock up someone completely different, it’s looking like Ohio State is focusing on three forwards in the class of 2023:

  • Four-star SF Dailyn Swain from Columbus Africentric High School (No. 63 overall)
  • Four-star SF Devin Royal from Pickerington Central High School (No. 86 overall)
  • Four-star SF Scotty Middleton from Sunrise Christian High School (No. 49 overall)

Ohio State has been aggressively pursuing all three wings. Middleton included the Buckeyes in his final five schools back on April 21, alongside Kansas, UCONN, Seton Hall, and Texas A&M. Middleton was offered by Ohio State back in January and took an official visit in March. He cut his list down to five a few weeks later, and the Buckeyes were right there.

Middleton told Eleven Warriors in April that he liked the family feel at Ohio State. He said he liked the fact that older players — like D’Angelo Russell, Mike Conley, Evan Turner, Keyshawn Woods, and others — return in the summer and work directly with the current team. He also said that all five schools are “even” right now, and he does not have an idea of when he’ll announce his college decision.

Middleton stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 180 pounds. He is categorized as a small forward, but could potentially slide over to shooting guard or even point guard if needed. With his slim figure, it’s unlikely he could play the four or five. Ohio State values versatility, and recruits typically reciprocate that feeling if it means a better chance to see early minutes. At No. 49 overall, Middleton is the highest ranked of the three forwards the Buckeyes are gunning for, and they appear to have a legitimate shot at getting him.

Swain is the second forward Ohio State has their eye on. He was the Division III player of the year in Ohio this past season, averaging 20.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 2.9 steals, and 3 blocks per game.

He does not have a list of schools he is considering at this time, but Ohio State, Cincinnati, Xavier, Marquette, and Virginia Tech are all heavily involved. The No. 63 player in the 2023 class, Swain made an unofficial visit to Ohio State on June 24, 2021 and received a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes the same day. Similarly to how Ohio State views 2022 commit Brice Sensabaugh and how they viewed star E.J. Liddell, Swain said that the Buckeyes love his versatility and ability to defend multiple positions:

“They showed me they could beat any team in the country; they beat Duke, who was No. 1 at the time. They showed how they stay together and are really good with game plans. Their players are coachable and when they follow the game plan from the coaches, they can play with anyone. They feel like I can play any position on the floor and guard the one through four. The coaches really like my versatility.”

Swain recently told 247Sports that Ohio State is in touch with him multiple times per week.

“There hasn’t been a week where I haven’t talked to them. They stay in touch a lot. They’re just checking in and seeing what I’m up to. They tell me what they think about my games and stuff like that.”

In my opinion, Swain is the most likely of the three to end up a Buckeye. Ohio State has some big competition for Middleton, and Royal (we’ll touch on him in a moment) has seen his recruitment heat up quite a bit in the last few months. Being a Columbus kid, the Buckeyes should have the inside track to get Swain in the scarlet and gray.

The third forward Ohio State has been aggressively going after is four-star Devin Royal. Royal plays for nearby Pickerington Central High School, and has seen his stock rise considerably over the past few months. Not too long ago, Royal was a three-star prospect and outside the top-100 in 247Sports’ rankings. Now he’s the No. 86 player in the country, the No. 4 player in Ohio, and a four-star recruit.

Ohio State was the biggest program recruiting Royal for awhile, but since his season ended, Michigan State, Illinois, and Wisconsin have all become heavily involved. Royal is already Big Ten-sized at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, something neither Middleton nor Swain can say. Royal won’t need to bulk up much once he gets to college, he’ll just need to tone the weight he already has.

Like Middleton and Swain, Ohio State loves Royal’s versatility. He averaged 19.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game as a junior on the way to winning the Division-I state championship. He’s classified as a small forward according to 247Sports, but he continues to work on his ballhandling and passing to play different roles if needed.

Royal spoke to 247Sports earlier this month about all of the schools pursuing him. On Ohio State:

”It’s a good vibe. They really like how versatile I am and they love me for me and how I play. They just tell me that it would be good to stay close to home, but to me distance doesn’t matter it is more about the relationship that I have with them and how they play.”

Ohio State offered Royal in October of last year, and he was in attendance on month later to watch the Buckeyes upset top-ranked Duke at the Schott. The Buckeyes were the second Big Ten team to offer Royal a scholarship, after only Penn State. Royal also plays on the same AAU team as Ohio State commit George Washington III.

None of the three have picked a date of when they will announce their college choice, and only Middleton has narrowed down any kind of list. Both Swain and Royal have said previously that they would like their recruitment to be over before their senior seasons start in November.

Will Ohio State land one of these three? It seems that way, and all three would be quality additions to the 2023 class. Could Ohio State land two of these guys? That’s harder to pin down because of the unpredictability of the transfer portal. Right now, Ohio State has four players departing after the 2022-23 season. That means the Buckeyes could add a total of two more players via transfer or 2023 recruits, assuming Holden stays for a scond season and nobody transfers out.

Right now it appears Swain is the most likely to wind up in Columbus, followed by Royal, and then Middleton. But with no timetable for any of them, no list for two of the three, and new teams getting involved all the time, it’s difficult to tell if the Buckeyes are the favorite for any of these three talented players.