Full Court Press: Kalen Etzler Discusses Visit to Ohio State and Chris Holtmann “Couldn't Be More Pleased” About 2019 Class

By Colin Hass-Hill on October 15, 2018 at 1:37 pm
Kalen Etzler (second from the left) and his family

Twitter/@kalen_etzler24

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Welcome to the Full Court Press, your weekly destination for offseason Ohio State basketball recruiting updates.

Kalen Etzler checks out Ohio State

It didn’t take long for Kalen Etzler to get caught up in Ohio State fever.

He grew up with a family full of Buckeye fans. Many of his clothes had Ohio State lettering emblazoned in the university’s lettering. Etzler’s uncle, Doug, played guard for the Buckeyes for four season in the early 1990s. As a child, when someone asked him where he wanted to be when he was older, his standard answer was “I want to play for the Buckeyes.”

What was once a dream could eventually turn into a reality.

The Crestview High School sophomore has developed into a 6-foot-8, 168-pound forward in the 2021 class. He already has two scholarship offers – one from Duquesne that he got as an 8th grader and another from Bowling Green State. A coach from Purdue came to watch him work out, and he plans to soon take a visit there. Miami (Ohio), where his brother will play, also has been in contact, along with a variety of other programs.

A little over a week ago, Etzler took an unofficial visit to Ohio State. He had asked assistant coach Ryan Pedon, who had followed him throughout the year, to come watch him work out. After the workout, Pedon invited Etzler to visit during Ohio State’s football game against Indiana.

Etzler and his family – which included his dad, an Ohio State fan who was “geeked” – met up with Pedon at 9 a.m. on Oct. 6 to get a tour of campus before heading back to the Schottenstein Center to watch a basketball practice.

“Watching practice, it just kind of sparked something in me,” Etzler said. “I was like, I need to start doing more if I want to get to this level. The shape they're in is unbelievable. The defense they play is just incredible. The way they move their feet. There's some players on the team that just don't miss. Overall, the strength of the team is unbelievable.”

Etzler finished off the trip by attending Skull Session, then walking behind the football team through the lined-up fans into Ohio Stadium. He headed back outside to tailgate, then watched pre-game warmups on the field before taking in the game from front-row seats on the 50-yard line, an experience he called “unbelievable.”

Though Etzler grew up a Buckeyes fan, he emphasized that he will choose a school based on the best fit for him.

Etzler’s brother, Javin, has a major influence on him because he just went through the entire process. A 2019 prospect, Javin is committed to Miami (Ohio). Etzler accompanied his brother on many trips to schools and has worked out with him in front of college coaches. Javin actually visited Ohio State as a freshman in high school.

Seeing his brother go through the process allowed Etzler to learn first-hand what college coaches are looking for.

“Just to stay humble and how hard you've got to work to be at this level and the stuff you have to do to get there,” Etzler said. “Attitude-wise, attitude's huge. It doesn't matter how good you are, if you don't have a good attitude to be great, you might as well not even play.”

Etzler does not have an offer from Ohio State. But that’s not entirely surprising since Chris Holtmann’s staff has only offered two players – guards Meechie Johnson and Khristian Lander – in the 2021 recruiting cycle.

Pedon didn’t tell Etzler specifically what he wanted to see in order to give him a scholarship offer, but they discussed what he needs to continue working on.

“He just told me to keep working on what I'm doing,” Etzler said. “Get that shot right. Talked to him about getting stronger – that's a huge part of the game. We're were talking a little bit on defense, how your feet are supposed to be and walling up, stuff like that.”

Once his high school basketball season with Crestview begins, Etzler said Pedon plans to attend a game. Etzler also hopes to make it to an Ohio State game this season, since he’s only watched “a game or two” in the Schottenstein Center.

A lanky big man, Etlzer said he has the ability to play both inside and outside. He feels most comfortable on the break and coming off screens. Etzler also takes many 3-pointers, which he called “a big part of my game.”

Chris Holtmann “really excited” for 2019 class

He can’t talk about it yet in specifics, but that doesn’t mean Chris Holtmann isn’t thrilled about Ohio State’s 2019 recruiting class. In fact, when 247Sports reporter Steve Helwagen asked him about the class, calling it “pretty good" at Big Ten media day on Thursday, Holtmann couldn’t help but give him grief.

“Pretty good? Man, your standards are high,” Holtmann said. “Golly. What do we got to do to impress you?”

Holtmann has every reason to be excited about the class. It’s the best he has ever signed.

The group includes one five-star prospect – point guard D.J. Carton – and a pair of well-regarded four-star forwards – E.J. Liddell and Alonzo Gaffney. Both Liddell and Gaffney are top-50 prospects in the nation. Carton is ranked No. 24 overall. They combine to be the fifth-best 2019 class in the country and the best in the Big Ten.

“I couldn't be more pleased,” Holtmann said. “Now, the challenge is we've got to have a good one in '20. Could not be more pleased. Our staff has done an outstanding job. We worked extremely hard. I think Buckeye Nation will enjoy seeing these young men play. But obviously we've got a freshman class in from of them that they're going to be excited to see play too.”

Holtmann has increased the quality of recruits each year since arriving at Ohio State. In 2017, he pulled in Kyle Young, who at No. 80 overall was the highest-rated recruit he had ever signed. The next year, he brought in a class headed by the No. 79 overall prospect, Luther Muhammad. His 2019 class has three players ranked in the top 50.

Holtmann plans to maintain the level of prospect he has recently reeled in.

“We've got to move to ‘20 and ‘21 because it's really important to have the kind of level of sustained success, and we're not there yet,” Holtmann said. “Make no mistake, we're not there where we say we have the ability to be able to sustain success. We've got to get to that point. The only way you do that is you build multiple good recruiting classes.”

It can be difficult to project what type of player and how many players will be needed a couple years out due to players transferring and leaving early to head to the NBA, but Holtmann said “we have an idea” of what the coaching staff is looking for. In future classes, Ohio State will be looking for rim protection, a wing and a guard with “some versatility,” Holtmann said.

Brandon Boston Jr. to visit Ohio State

Holtmann continues to outdo his prior recruiting classes, and he hopes to do that once again with Ohio State 2020 class.

Brandon Boston Jr., the No. 11 prospect in 2020, will use an official visit to take a look at Ohio State this fall, Rivals reported.

“Last time I was at Ohio State, (I was) there for a football game and they played Penn State and that was one of the best visits I've ever been on,” he told Rivals. “The fan atmosphere was crazy and just knowing Ohio State has fans like that is something special.”

The 6-foot-6, 160-pound shooting guard attends Norcross High School, a powerhouse in Georgia. He is the second-ranked player in his home state and the fourth-best shooting guard in the country.

Ohio State doesn’t have a player in the 2020 class committed, and it’s hard to overstate how major a coup landing Boston would be. However, the Buckeyes are facing steep competition. Boston also plans to use official visits for Alabama, Florida and Duke, the favorite according to the 247Sports crystal ball projections.

Checking in on Che

Ohio State assistant coach Mike Schrage visited 2020 four-star small forward Che Evans on Thursday.

A native of Lutherville Timonium, Maryland, Evans is the No. 143 overall prospect and the 27th-best small forward in the country. Evan has a bunch of offers, including ones from Florida, Georgia Tech, Georgetown, Penn State and Rutgers, but has not reported an offer from Ohio State.

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