Ohio State Basketball Recruiting Notebook: 9/19

By Mike Young on September 19, 2013 at 6:00p

September 9 kicked off a flurry of activity near the hard court, as members of college coaching staffs traveled across the United States to evaluate and recruit players.

The same holds true for Thad Matta and his staff, who are still working on filling out the 2014 class and assessing what prospects to offer in 2015 and later classes.

Historically, Ohio State has dominated in-state recruiting. This month, Buckeye coaches are continuing to make inroads with members of a stacked 2015 Ohio class.

Plus, Matta and his staff remain in pursuit of a budding star from “Down Under.”

Chasing a Big Man for 2014

The highest rated big man the Buckeyes are after is still, technically, Jahlil Okafor. Fans are probably tired of being teased with the notion that Okafor is considering Ohio State, with all signs pointing towards Duke.

Still, Evan Daniels ignited a firestorm on Twitter by reporting that some of his sources think Okafor is leaning towards Kansas. Maybe there was some magic between him and Bill Self in their meeting last Tuesday.

Perhaps it’s all just conjecture. Still, this might suggest Okafor isn’t completely sold on Duke and won’t be headed there with Tyus Jones, after all. If that’s the case, Ohio State still has a shot to impress him on an unofficial visit to Columbus.

A more realistic option is Myles Turner. Kansas has long been considered the favorite to land the five-star Texas big man, but that tide might be changing.

He’ll no longer attend Late Night in the Phog – a premier Jayhawk basketball event – due to a schedule conflict. He’ll have to reschedule his visit, opening the door for another school to jump his alleged favorite.

He’s considering visiting Ohio State, Oct. 19, during the Iowa game weekend, but that’s not necessarily cemented. Kentucky, who offered him last week, will want him to attend their star-studded Big Blue Madness event the same weekend.

Outside of Okafor and Turner, the Buckeyes are still in on two other big men – Goodluck Okonoboh and Elbert Robinson.

Okonoboh recently visited Indiana, meeting up with former teammate and Hoosiers freshman Noah Vonleh. Meanwhile, Matta and Florida coach Billy Donovan were on hand to watch Okonoboh practice at his high school gym, last week. Currently, he hasn’t disclosed plans to visit Columbus.

Robinson will visit LSU this weekend, where a former Tigers big man will be conveniently on campus, as well:

Ohio Prospects in 2015

Matta and his staff have been racking up the frequent flyer miles, but they’re not straying too far from Ohio.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Matta, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and John Beilein were in Franklin, visiting with Luke Kennard. Duke sent an all out blitz to Southwest Ohio to watch the five-star wing.

Kentucky is also tugging at Kennard, who has reportedly visited Lexington three times in the last seven weeks. His most recent visit came during another recruit-filled event, the UK charity alumni game.

Up in Cleveland, Matta visited Carlton Bragg, a five-star VASJ product:

He wasn’t the only one to check out Bragg since the recruiting period opened. According to Michael Graves – his mentor – members of the Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Kent State and Illinois coachings staffs were all in the VASJ gym, Wednesday.

Bragg will be on Ohio State's campus, this weekend. He's scheduled to visit Kentucky next weekend.

Buckeyes After 2015 Australian Recruit

One of the most exciting 2015 prospects the Buckeyes are after is Ben Simmons. The five-star recruit is a Melbourne, Australia native and is only in his first year of high school in the United States.

Despite the inexperience stateside, one look at Simmons’ mixtape and he offers up limitless potential.

Now, as Simmons writes in his USA Today blog, he has risen to 6-feet-10 inches tall and his weight is up to 230 pounds. He spent the summer playing for the Australian national team, and competing against fellow countryman Dante Exum in an abbreviated dunk competition.

Additionally, he joined a semi-pro team in Australia and played against guys almost twice his age.

“The physicality alone helped me so much,” Simmons wrote. “The main focus this summer was lifting and getting stronger so I'd be prepared to play at Montverde [Academy] again.”

Montverde is the same school 2014 Ohio State commit D’Angelo Russell attends. Russell isn’t the only one telling Simmons about how great Columbus is.

Buckeye coaches have been in constant contact, according to Simmons. He said he’s seen members of Matta’s staff at scrimmages and exchanged messages with them while he was in Australia.

“Over the summer I kept in touch with coaches from LSU, Duke, Kentucky, UNC, Florida, Ohio State, “ Simmons wrote, “and a few other schools through email, for the most part.”


Comments Show All Comments

braxonbraxonbrax's picture

Bragg had himself a nice weekend too, winning the "dunk contest" at the Midwest Elite Camp also. His game is great all-around.

German Buckeye's picture

The more big men we can get the more merrier I become. 

Seattle Linga's picture

Agreed - you can never and I mean never have too many BIGS

AAStagg's picture

Thad should do some sort of glitzy "Friday Night Lights"-style event for top recruits featuring LeBron James.  They may hate him in Cleveland, but high school kids from the rest of America would fight to attend an event like that. 

Keep calm.  It's only a game.

OSU069's picture

Do we have a chance at Ben Simmons?

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Additionally, he played for a semi-pro team in Australia and played against guys almost twice his age.

So ... uh ... this does not violate NCAA regulations???

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

Toilrt Paper's picture

By definition, "semi-pro" means some get paid, some do not.

Mike Young's picture

Right... I don't mean to disappoint you guys by not knowing the Australia-State League rules, but I'd have to think Simmons wasn't paid and his situation somewhat similar to that of AAU ball or European club teams. As an example, Amedeo Della Valle played 5 years for a club team in Italy before one year of high school at Findlay Prep. 

ScarletNGrey01's picture

DELLA VALLEEEEEE!!!!  Sorry, got carried away there.  Interesting, did not know that, thanks Mike.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

Bobcat04's picture

Along with D'Angelo Russell, Thad should have Cameron Johnston give Simmons a call.  They could form the Ohio State Aussie Posse.  I can't believe I just said that...
Mike, do you believe that Thad has a shot at any of those 2014 big men?  I mean, there's always technically a shot, but is it probable (or at least feasible) that we can lure one away from the Dukes, Kansas and Kentuckys of the world?  Whenever I read bball recruiting updates, it just never sounds like we are at an advantage for the last piece of the '14 class.  I appreciate the basketball coverage, BTW! 

raiderred's picture

Love the bball coverage also

Mike Young's picture

It's still too early in Turner, Okonoboh and Robinson's recruitment to say. Which is also to say, it's wide open. Not sure if any of those will sign in November. 

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great article Mike.  Glad to hear that the Buckeye coaches are working hard to pull in the best players and leaving no stone unturned. 

chowoon97's picture

Many believe that Cliff Alexander, Jahlil Okafor, and Myles Turner are leaning toward Kansas.
It doesn't make sense. 

EazyElmo's picture

50 DAYS AWAY!!! BASKETBALL CAN'T GET HERE FAST ENOUGH FOR ME!!! Sorry, I'm sleep deprived and I'm all hopped up on Mt. Dew and sudafed. God I hate allergies, I HATE 'EM