With Ohio experiencing a resurgence in high-major basketball talent, the next two recruiting classes are vital for the Buckeyes.
Thad Matta has done a tremendous job retaining Ohio talent, historically, which means he and his staff establish relationships early while scouting talent. The Buckeyes have already been heavily involved in recruiting for 2016, including offering Akron St. Vincent-St.Mary sophomore V.J. King before he even played a high school game.
The most recent offer in that class went out to St. Edward center Derek Funderburk Jr., shortly after assistant coach Greg Paulus watched one of his games in January. That same weekend, Paulus also scouted North Royalton forward Omari Spellman.
Since then, Spellman has been established as a four-star talent across multiple recruiting services, and is No. 30 overall in 247Sports' composite rankings Spellman is averaging close to 20 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks per game, but he's not dominating because his 6-foot-8-inch frame is too much to handle. According to his head coach, Tim Matus, Spellman translates to a stretch-four and often handles the ball on the perimeter for North Royalton.
"Everybody is looking for a big guy who can step out and shoot. He's a very good shooter for his size and his position," Matus told Eleven Warriors. "He's exactly what colleges are looking for, as far as a skill set to be able to do that. Obviously, he's only a sophomore, which is a bonus."
Spellman transferred to North Royalton from New York and played varsity basketball in the Empire State as an eighth grader. While that may make him ineligible for part of his senior season, it has paid dividends in Spellman's growth as a player.
"He was voted team captain, I've never had that," Matus said. "From his teammates, that says all you need to know about what they think about him, as far as being a leader and what we need for our team."
It may take until the summer for Spellman to get noticed by more schools, but he is receiving attention from some solid programs. He does not yet hold an offer from Ohio State, but, according to Matus, Villanova is recruiting him heavily. Other Big Ten schools, such as Iowa, Purdue and Rutgers have also watched him at open gyms.
"I've talked to a lot of big schools, and his skill set is right where it needs to be," Matus said. "For his skills with his size, you don't see it a whole lot."
Cleveland.com's David Cassilo, who has covered Spellman throughout his freshman and sophomore seasons, has high hopes for the potential all-Ohio forward.
"2016 is a loaded class. He's not at the level of a player like a V.J. King, but I think we're looking at a player who is top-100 in the country," Cassilo said. "At the end of the day, he's going to play in one of the best conferences in the country - be it the Big Ten or the Big East."
These highlights are a bit dated, as he's added muscle, but here are the most recent highlights of Spellman on YouTube. Can he be a prototypical Matta stretch-four?