In a bit of an unexpected twist earlier this week, Ohio State added a transfer guard who had not previously been linked to the program prior to his commitment. Dale Bonner, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound guard who has played at Division-II Fairmont State and more recently Baylor, made it known on Monday that he would transfer to Ohio State for his final year of eligibility.
Let’s work! @OhioStateHoops #Commited pic.twitter.com/b3l03i7E0b— Dale Bonner (@dalebonne) April 17, 2023
Bonner averaged 17.8 points and 5.3 assists per game during his (redshirt) freshman season at Fairmont State in the 2019-2020 season. He then averaged 20.2 points per game as a sophomore, leading the team in scoring. He was Fairmont State’s overall leader in points, assists, and steals during his two seasons before transferring to Baylor before the 2021-2022 season.
A fan favorite in Waco, Scott Drew’s Baylor teams used Bonner primarily as a backup to guys like Adam Flagler, Keyonte George, and LJ Cryer during his two seasons there. Still, Bonner averaged 18.3 minutes per game on two Baylor teams that earned No. 1 and No. 3-seeds in the past two NCAA Tournaments. He averaged 3.9 points and 2.1 assists per game, and had 67 steals in 60 games.
He’s been described as a “gifted defender and passer” and was one of Baylor’s best on-ball defenders last season. Adding Bonner to a recipe that already includes Thornton, Gayle, Felix Okpara, and Scotty Middleton could help create Ohio State’s best defensive team in several seasons.
Dale Bonner with handles so good that Fran Fraschilla gave him his own Burger King song on the spot. pic.twitter.com/CZTcxyiUhe— Eric Kelly (@EricKellyTV) February 28, 2023
Bonner will likely be expected to play a similar role at Ohio State, as Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle are likely entrenched at the point and shooting guard spots after playing extensive minutes as freshmen — in Gayle’s case, mostly during the stretch run. Bonner will not be expected to carry a big scoring load with Thornton, Gayle, Jamison Battle, Zed Key, and others on the team, but they may lean on his shooting (37.2% from three last season) a bit more than Baylor did.
The sixth-year guard told the Columbus Dispatch on Monday afternoon that he was not set on playing in any particular conference or level of basketball, as he also had visits to Tulane, Minnesota, Notre Dame, and Akron scheduled for this month. However, Ohio State felt like “the right fit.”
“I was pretty open to all levels and all different coaches around the country,” he said. “It essentially came down to me getting on campus and seeing everything. I just felt comfortable and felt like it was the right fit for me and the right decision.”
Bonner will probably play a similar amount of minutes at Ohio State as he did at Baylor, barring any injuries popping up. Taison Chatman, a four-star freshman guard from Minnesota, will also mix into the Ohio State backcourt this season, but Thornton and Gayle will have the first crack at starting roles. It also would not be a shocker for Holtmann and staff to work in some three-guard lineups next season where it makes sense, with Thornton, Gayle, and one of Bonner or Chatman on the floor together.
While not a splashy addition, the Buckeyes had a need for an experienced guard who could work alongside a comparatively inexperienced backcourt cast. Ohio State’s other need this offseason — adding a dynamic forward who could score in bunches — was accomplished with the addition of Battle two weeks ago.
With Bonner on the roster, Ohio State is now one scholarship over the limit, with 14. However, Brice Sensabaugh is likely remaining in the NBA Draft, and there are rumors that Tanner Holden may opt to transfer as well. It goes without saying that if Holtmann was comfortable adding Bonner at this point, he and his staff are confident that one of Sensabaugh or Holden will not be on the team this fall.