Scotty Middleton has not played a single minute at the collegiate level yet, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to enter the arena as a timid freshman. On the contrary, he comes off as the type of person who jumps at every opportunity to be challenged and has the confidence to succeed in doing so.
Just ask his former teammate at Sunrise Christian Academy and the 13th-overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Gradey Dick.
Dick was the No. 22 player in the 2022 recruiting class, one year ahead of Middleton, who graduated this past spring. After averaging 14.1 points per game at Kansas and shooting 40.3% from three-point range, the 6-foot-7 forward was selected by the Toronto Raptors with the 13th overall pick in this past year’s NBA Draft. At that height and roughly 195 pounds, he is the same size as Middleton.
Scotty spoke with myself and Land-Grant Holy Land’s Justin Golba last summer, right after his commitment to Ohio State in August 2022. During our roughly 20-minute conversation, we had to ask him if he thought he could beat his former teammate in a game of one-on-one. Side note: if you want to hear the entire conversation, you can find it below.
“Who’s winning, me or Grady?” Once Middleton stopped laughing at the thought, he responded, “Grady I love you, but I won’t lie, I’m winning one-on-one. I’m winning.”
Since that proclamation from Middleton last summer, Gradey Dick went on to be named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year — the best freshman in the best conference in America. He was also named second-team All-Big 12, drafted in the back end of the lottery, and signed a four-year deal with the Toronto Raptors where he will make roughly $5.3 million dollars per year.
So, since all of this has happened, has Scotty’s opinion changed at all on the whole, you know, beating him mano a mano thing? Well, I caught up with him last week at Ohio State’s media day and asked him. Now that we’ve seen an entire year of Gradey at Kansas and Scotty has had a year to stew on the idea, does he still think he’d win?
“I still think I can beat him, yeah.”
Middleton expanded, explaining that he simply thinks his on-ball defense would be too tough for Dick to score on him. On the other side, he thinks that his height (he’s listed at 6-foot-7 on Ohio State’s website, which is actually one inch shorter than what Dick is listed at on the Raptors’ site) would help him in making some tough shots against his former teammate.
“My intensity on defense (would help). I feel like I would make it really hard for him to score on me,” he told me last week. “Offensively, I would probably just try to use my height and make some difficult shots.”
Ice in his veins‼️— Ohio State Hoops (@OhioStateHoops) March 30, 2023
Scotty Middleton knocked down this clutch go-ahead three that proved to be the game winner today over #1 seed Montverde Academy in the Geico High School Nationals! @ScottyMiddleto9 | #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/ugY7zE2xWJ
Ohio State has sat outside of the top 80 in adjusted defensive efficiency for three consecutive seasons. Middleton will bring in versatility on the defensive end that Ohio State has lacked in recent years, and pairing him with the likes of Roddy Gayle and Felix Okpara should help the Buckeyes evolve from a poor defensive team to an acceptable one, or perhaps even a great one.
Scotty has not had the opportunity to prove his defensive chops on the floor yet for Ohio State, but clearly, he’s not lacking in confidence. He was recently projected to be a late first-round draft pick in the 2024 NBA Draft according to The Athletic’s mock draft, so perhaps we’ll see the Middleton-Dick matchup someday down the road.
But for now, he’s focused on getting better each and every day and helping Ohio State return to the level of play that fans have come to expect from one of the most successful men’s basketball programs in the Big Ten conference.