Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith introduced Chris Holtmann as the 14th head coach in the history of the men's basketball program on Monday morning. And after he thanked those who assisted in his meteoric rise from head coach at Gardner-Webb just four years ago and explained how coaching the Buckeyes was simply too good an offer to pass up, Holtmann immediately shifted his focus to recruiting.
“That first hour, we started making calls and contacting [recruits],” Holtmann said. “I have some previous relationships with some young men, but our focus this past weekend has been Ohio.”
It was certainly music to Smith's ears, as he repeatedly called recruiting the lifeblood of the program during former head coach Thad Matta's final press conference last week. The Buckeyes have lost commitments in the last few months from two of the top-rated players in the state in four-star forward Darius Bazley and three-star forward Justin Ahrens, which was seemingly the last straw for Matta before the two sides mutually parted ways.
“We hit the ground running,” Holtmann said. “This place is incredible. People understand that. I think we're going to have a great opportunity. Any time you take a job at this point, you have a little bit of catch-up. We understand that.”
Fortunately for Ohio State, Holtmann's hiring comes ahead of the all-important July recruiting period, at which time he'll be able to hit the road and evaluate prospects in person. With four of the Top 100 players in the Class of 2018 right in his back yard, he won't have to go far to find them, either.
“This region is a tremendous area for talented, smart and tough players,” Holtmann said. “I've recruited Ohio for over 20 years, and it has outstanding players and coaches. Some of the very best in the country. It will be paramount to our success. There's no question. We're going to work extremely hard to close our borders and dominate the state of Ohio in recruiting. It will be an every day focus for us.”
Five players on last year's roster were from Ohio, and incoming four-star center Kaleb Wesson is from just down the street in Westerville. 2018 four-star guard commit Dane Goodwin is from Upper Arlington, too, so it's not as if there isn't a solid foundation upon which to build.
Now, it's just about finding the right fit. And pulling from a set of principles he learned in Indianapolis called “The Butler Way,” Holtmann has set his sights on a certain type of players he wants to bring to Columbus.
“We're going to be really aggressive and passionate as a staff about adding 'Ohio State guys' to our program,” Holtman said. “We'll be selective in this pursuit of 'Ohio State' guys. It's not going to be for everyone. Tough, talented, committed and unselfish student-athletes who value this place. Who come here like I did and say, 'Wow. What an incredible place.'”