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Column: The curious case of Dailyn Swain

Ohio State’s elite recruiting may cause the Buckeyes to miss out on another high-level player from right here in Columbus.

Photo courtesy of Steve Helwagen - 247Sports

Chris Holtmann and his staff have been keeping a close eye on Columbus Africentric’s Dailyn Swain for awhile now — both at his basketball games and otherwise.

Yes, Holtmann and assistant coach Jake Diebler caught one of Swain’s tennis matches this spring. That is how committed they are to making Swain a Buckeye. Sure, Swain being local makes doing that a lot easier, but it’s still impressive and comical that Holtmann has made Swain such a high priority that he’s even willing to go catch his other sports when basketball isn’t being played.

Clearly the interest is there from Ohio State, but is that interest reciprocated from Swain, a four-star recruit and the No. 88 player in the country? And at this point — with five incoming freshmen and four already locked up in the class of 2023 — do the Buckeyes still have room for Swain even if the interest is mutual?

The objective answer is no — there are no available scholarships for Swain right now. But college basketball fans know how fluid rosters are in the transfer portal era, so that doesn’t neccesarily mean a scholarship won’t open up down the line. Will Holtmann and his staff over-recruit the class of 2023 by one player in order to avoid missing out on a potential NBA-caliber talent like Swain?

Here are some things to consider as Swain’s recruitment moves forward. A few of these factors point to him being a Buckeye, others indicate that maybe it’s not the most perfect fit. Recent comments from Chris Holtmann seem to indicate that the Buckeyes may not be done adding to their 2023 class, so don’t close the book on a third member of All-Ohio Red joining that 2023 class....

It really seems like Swain wants to be a Buckeye

Last summer, Swain told Steve Helwagen of 247Sports that he grew up an Ohio State fan and that getting a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes last summer, “Meant a lot because growing up in the city and it’s in your hometown, it’s such a big school. It really felt good. It was important to me. It definitely feels great.”

After Ohio State’s team camp in June, Eleven Warrior’s Griffin Strom asked Swain if Ohio State was “the leader” in his recruitment. He told Griffin that, although Ohio State isn’t “the leader of the pack” he also doesn’t consider them “just another school” amongst others.

Clearly, Ohio State means a bit more to Swain than some of the other schools who offered him. That doesn’t mean he won’t go elsewhere, but at some level, he has a soft spot for the Buckeyes.

During Devin Royal’s commitment on August 3, Swain was spotted commenting the Buckeye emoji during Royal’s live stream with Paul Biancardi. Could Swain have just been supporting a friend in his decision, and it had nothing to do with his own affection for Ohio State? For sure. But is it typical that a recruit like Swain, who is currently being recruited by that same school among others, would publicly make that comment in an open forum? Not really. But he’s also 17, so let’s not read the tea leaves too deeply here.

Two of his AAU teammates are already committed to Ohio State

Swain plays for All-Ohio Red on the EYBL circuit during the summer. This year, they qualified for Peach Jam, which was a big goal of theirs heading into the summer circuit. Two of his teammates — Devin Royal and George Washington III — comprise 50% of Ohio State’s 2023 recruiting class. He considers both good friends of his, especially Washington.

The All-Ohio Red to Ohio State pipeline could continue with Swain if he commits, and the three friends could carry their on-court chemistry with them from AAU to college. After Royal committed to the Buckeyes, he said he, “Might have to talk to Dailyn a little bit” as his friend’s recruitment progresses, knowing Ohio State was still recruiting him.

Having two close friends on the team doesn’t make it a lock, but it can’t hurt, right?

Ohio State doesn’t have the scholarship availability right now, but that could change

Recruiting during the transfer portal era is a different beast than pre-transfer portal. Now, coaches not only have to stress about how they’ll get the best players to join their program, but they also have to worry about they’ll keep them around. With the one-time transfer rule, NIL opportunities, and the reduced patience young players exhibit towards playing time, holding on to a bundle of young players from year to year is difficult. Last season, only 10 Division-I programs avoided losing a player to the transfer portal — which shakes out to about 4% of teams.

That’s a roundabout way of saying that the Buckeyes will likely lose one of their players next spring. Whether that’s by way of transfer or early exit (Tanner Holden, perhaps), the odds that the nine potential returnees all return for the 2023-2024 season is not high. More likely than not, a scholarship will open up.

Ohio State could — in theory — add Swain to the 2023 class now, assuming a roster spot will open up in the spring and it won’t be a problem. That’s not how Holtmann has operated in the past, but the transfer portal and one-time transfer rule haven’t been around for very long, either.

Holtmann recently hinted that there still may be a “finishing touch” on the 2023 class

This nugget is credited to the Columbus Dispatch’s Adam Jardy, who attended the “The Foundation” dinner auction this week and heard this from Holtmann. On his “Buckeye Xtra” podcast — which you can find here — he said that Holtmann gushed about the incoming freshmen, as well as the strong “next class” they are putting together. Holtmann hinted that there still could be another player joining the 2023 class, which surprised Jardy as well as myself.

Swain has the kind of versatility Ohio State loves

Swain is a 6-foot-6, 175-pound small forward who can slide over to shooting guard or even point guard if need be. He’s said previously that he appreciates how Ohio State lays out a plan for him and how they see him fitting into how they play. He told Helwagen this June that:

Coach Holtmann just mentioned he could see some point guard in my future. With him, we have a good relationship. He stays in the mix and checks up on me and sees my progress. He tells me what he sees in my game and what I can do. We have just been talking about another visit possibly and what I can do with the program.”

As college basketball shifts towards a more positionless game where players of Swain’s size bring the ball up while traditional, back to the basket centers are going extinct, Ohio State has put more and more value on a recruit’s ability to play two, three, or even four positions. Swain, while being somewhat of a volatile prospect with a low floor and high ceiling, fits the mold.

The Decisions of Bronny James, Reid Ducharme could influence his landing spot

Prospects typically aren’t going to go where there’s no space, or if their position suddenly is crowded on the roster. Xavier is in Swain’s final five schools, and he took an official visit there on August 20. But Sean Miller and the Musketeers just got a commitment from four-star SF Reid Ducharme on Thursday afternoon, which squeezes the depth chart a bit on that Xavier roster. Ducharme, like Swain, is a slim small forward who may wind up playing more two-guard at the next level. Ducharme going to Xavier doesn’t mean Swain won’t also head that way, but it’s something to consider.

But if Bronny James winds up committing to Ohio State before Swain makes a decision, then the Buckeyes will certainly be out on any other 2023 prospects. The Buckeyes won’t take six members in that class, so James joining the fun would absolutely put the kibosh on the Columbus kid joining his AAU teammates at Ohio State.

Bronny’s recruitment will be entertaining, and he may wind up taking an official visit on Sept. 3 — no official word on that, but lots of whispers. However, Bronny has made zero official visits, nor has he cut down any kind of list. Swain, on the other hand, has taken several visits and is down to Xavier, Ohio State, Arizona State, Clemson, and Arkansas.

I don’t think Bronny’s recruitment will end up impacting Swain’s decision at all. If anything, Ohio State potentially taking Swain would actually take them out of the Bronny sweepstakes, because Swain is so much farther along in the process right now.