When Chris Holtmann was introduced as Ohio State's next head basketball coach, it was obvious that one of his first orders of business would be recruiting the Buckeye state hard.
"We're going to work extremely hard to close our borders and dominate the state of Ohio in recruiting," Holtmann said at his introductory press conference. "It will be an everyday focus for us."
Holtmann got to work early, piecing together a 2017 class by adding Musa Jallow and Kyle Young to his first Ohio State roster, before putting together a top-25 class in the 2018 cycle. On Tuesday, however, Holtmann added his biggest piece yet.
Alonzo Gaffney, the top player in the state of Ohio in the 2019 class, announced his commitment to Ohio State on Tuesday morning, giving the Buckeyes their signature in-state commitment they had missed out on in recent years.
Gaffney was the second commitment Ohio State picked up in three days, as the Buckeyes landed Florida State transfer CJ Walker on Sunday. Due to transfer rules, Walker will not be eligible to play until 2019-2020, when Gaffney will arrive on campus.
When Gaffney does arrive, he figures to make an immediate impact on the court for Ohio State.
On The Court
At 6-foot-9, 190 pounds, Gaffney's length and athleticism are what immediately stand out on film when watching Gaffney. He has the ability to block and alter shots on defense, while also shooting over the top of defenders at the other end of the floor.
A right-handed shooter, Gaffney has shown ability to hit the outside jumper, but most of his game at this point in his basketball career is in the paint. That said, he has a smooth-looking jump shot with solid mechanics. He simply needs to improve his consistency from long range.
Gaffney has a game that is similar to that of Keita Bates-Diop. Gaffney is more athletic than Bates-Diop was at this point in his career, with similar ball-handling ability. Bates-Diop's jumper was more refined, however, as Gaffney tends to play more in the post than on the perimeter.
Speaking on 97.1 The Fan in Columbus on Tuesday, Gaffney said part of his decision to come to Ohio State was because of how the Buckeye coaching staff developed Bates-Diop in what ended up being his final season at OSU.
"What they did with Keita Bates-Diop, that is a player that I feel like I am very similar to," Gaffney said. "They did an unbelievable job with him and an unbelievable job with the program. Coach Holtmann was Big Ten Coach of the Year, and that was pretty big. One of the best coaches in the nation."
Before landing in Columbus, Gaffney will need to add some size and strength in order to keep up with the physicality of Big Ten basketball. Gaffney said he hopes to add 20 pounds to his frame before stepping on the court at the Schottenstein Center.
"My ideal weight when I get to college should be about 210. That would be a good weight going in as a freshman," Gaffney said. "Mainly, I am trying to work on my ball-handling and being consistent with my jumper."
In The Class
Gaffney is the first high school prospect to commit in the 2019 class, but as we previously mentioned, he is the second member of the class in addition to Walker, who will be eligible to play in 2019 after transferring in from the Seminoles.
Before Holtmann and his staff arrived in Columbus, Gaffney was largely considered a favorite to land at Louisville before sanctions came down on the Cardinals, resulting in the firing of head coach Rick Pitino. Gaffney's commitment could possibly set a trend within the state, as Ohio State also has its eyes on the likes of Jordan Mitchell, a four-star small forward from nearby Gahanna Lincoln High School.
With the addition of Walker in the 2019 class and others on the way, the pressure for Gaffney to create his own shot won't be as high, which should only help him when he arrives on campus.
The success Ohio State had on the floor in 2017-18 has clearly made an impact on the recruiting trail, and played a significant role in Gaffney's decision to come to Columbus. If the Buckeyes continue to have success, Holtmann could very well build on the already surprising success at OSU.
"This season gave me a really great feeling about the program," Gaffney said about Ohio State's first season under Holtmann. "The coaching staff brought life to the program. I wouldn't say the program was dead, but they brought the program alive this year. Everybody wants to jump on the Ohio State bus, and I did too."
Gaffney started his high school career at Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School in Cleveland before transferring to Garfield Heights, as he moved in with his father who lived in the school district. His father, Kevin, played four years at the University of Cincinnati, where he averaged 10.8 points per game as a senior.
Originally, Gaffney said he wanted to play his college basketball far from home, but as he grew older, staying close to home became more and more important to him.
"There were a lot of colleges that had offered me, from Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina. But being an Ohio guy, it made the decision really clear for me. Growing up, I always thought I wanted to go as far as possible and get away from home," Gaffney said on 97.1. "(But) right now, that is the most important thing to me is staying home so my coaches, family and friends can come see me play."
Gaffney could very well start a pipeline similar to that of Glenville High School football to Ohio State. Garfield Heights is also home to Brent Darby, a 2020 recruit whose father of the same name played for the Buckeyes from 1999-2003. The elder Darby passed away in 2011 after a long battle with blood clots.
Point guard prospect Meechie Johnson, a 2021 recruit, also plays for Garfield Heights, and earned his first college offer from Ohio State in late 2017. Johnson is the nephew of Garfield Heights head coach Sonny Johnson.