It's no secret that losing in-state commits to programs outside of Ohio was a big part of why Thad Matta was removed as Ohio State's men's basketball coach on June 5.
While the Buckeyes currently have the top two in-state players from the 2017 class on their roster (Kaleb Wesson, Kyle Young), the 2018 and 2019 classes remain void of any home-state recruits after Pickerington Central point guard Jeremiah Francis, the top-rated Ohio recruit in the 2019 class, announced his commitment to North Carolina on Aug. 11.
One day later, Francis was on the court participating in the Columbus Kingdom Summer League, which also featured former Ohio State standouts Jared Sullinger and Evan Ravenel. Francis told Eleven Warriors that his decision to commit to the Tar Heels over the Buckeyes came down to the level of competition and the head coach.
"Coach (Roy) Williams, 800-plus wins, multiple Final Fours and a lot of lottery picks and I want to be one of them," Francis said. "To play in the ACC, one of the best conferences in the country. And again, Coach Williams. I couldn't say 'no' to that."
Sullinger, who played in the first of two games in the Kingdom Summer League, stayed for the second contest which featured a come-from-behind, 108-106 victory from the team led by Francis and Ravenel.
Sullinger told Eleven Warriors that despite being a Columbus native and Buckeye standout, he did not push Francis to commit to his former school, adding he wants what is best for the player, first.
"North Carolina just won a national championship. That is hard to knock," Sullinger said. "Honestly, I don't really recruit guys that I have known since they were knee-high. When it comes down to it, if they are on campus and they are thinking about Ohio State, then by any means, it is cool. But I never want them to think that I am associated with Ohio State when I was associated with them before I was with Ohio State."
Sullinger and Ravenel weren't the only ones with Ohio State ties in attendance to watch Francis play. Wesson, the top-rated player in Ohio in the 2017 class and current Buckeye forward, also took in the high-scoring affair.
A 6-foot-3, 190 point guard, Francis has yet to begin his junior year of high school. Despite that, he said he is shutting down his recruitment and does not anticipate flipping his commitment.
"I am not really a fan of committing somewhere and then possibly de-commiting. Once you commit, I believe you are committed and you start preparing yourself to go to that school," Francis said. "It's North Carolina. They can offer a lot of guards in my class, so why wait?"
Even though he won't be wearing scarlet and gray, Francis said he is confident the Ohio State coaching staff will be able to pull in future in-state prospects.
"Coach (Chris) Holtmann and Coach (Ryan) Pedon are really big on in-state guys," Francis said. "They will get it done with in-state guys. They recruit hard. Coach Pedon was coming at me hard and I respect Coach Pedon to the fullest."