Ben Roderick felt the momentum. He saw what might be coming.
As a junior at Olentangy Liberty in the spring of 2018, the recruitment for the high-scoring 6-foot-5 wing had picked up. He earned scholarship offers from a number of Mid-American Conference schools and other mid-major programs and had heard from teams in the Big Ten, including Ohio State.
Though the Buckeyes hadn’t offered, he knew he had a chance to garner even more interest – and scholarships – from them and other teams by finishing his high school season strong and impressing on the AAU circuit.
“I think the one game, I think it was the (Dublin) Coffman game, (Ohio State) came to see me play and it was my best game of the season,” Roderick said on Thursday. “I really thought things were going to ramp up there, and then, obviously, the injury happened.”
The injury he says he has moved beyond. The injury he doesn’t particularly enjoy talking about. The injury that kept him out of action for eight months. The injury that suddenly halted the recruiting progress that had been ongoing since UT Martin mailed him a questionnaire during the summer after his freshman year of high school, marking the first time a college basketball program reached out to him.
“It's always been a dream to play there.”– Ben Roderick on Ohio State
Though Roderick didn’t know when feeling the initial pain on Jan. 31, 2018, he had suffered a torn ACL.
“ACL injuries, they swell up instantly and mine didn't, so I didn't think it would be that,” Roderick said on Thursday, marking the one-year anniversary of his injury. “But when I was walking, my knee would just give out. It just didn't feel right. I tried to go back in the game, I just really couldn't. A day later, I went to the doctor and he told me I had a torn ACL. We just went from there.”
Roderick’s first milestone on the path to recovery came when he began walking without crutches. Four months after the injury, he began running on an AlterG anti-gravity treadmill, which he say he thought was the “the coolest thing ever.” Shortly after, he began to walk, then run, on a regular treadmill. Next, his physical therapist allowed him to take jump shots on an indoor basketball hoop, which made him “the happiest kid on Earth.”
While rehabbing, Roderick still attended Olentangy Liberty games, but he couldn’t step on the court with the teammates he had played with since fourth grade. He especially felt the pain of not being healthy enough to play during his team’s game against Westerville Central that spring.
“I remember in the fourth quarter, we only scored two points that whole quarter,” Roderick said. “They were two free throws. I just kept sitting there. I was pretty upset with myself because I wanted to go out there so bad, but I just knew I couldn't.”
During the rehabilitation process, Roderick didn’t earn any more scholarship offers. But coaches – including Chris Holtmann – remained in constant contact, knowing he would likely return at some point and play much of his senior year at Olentangy Liberty.
“I got a call 4th of July from Holtmann, and he told me that he wanted to see how the recovery process was going and see if he could get in contact with my doctors and stuff, see how I was doing,” Roderick said. “That was a really good call because it felt kind of nice hearing from them.”
He had been hearing from Holtmann and assistant coach Ryan Pedon – his main recruiter at Ohio State – for years, ever since they coached at Butler.
Roderick appeared on their radar as a sophomore, and they convinced him to make the drive to Indianapolis to check out the campus.
In January 2017, he took a visit to Butler, coincidentally stopping by the university during the same weekend as Kyle Young, who was a Bulldogs commit at the time. Roderick and Young sat a few seats down from each other as they watched Butler take on Georgetown.
“That was the first time I ever went to a high-major Division-I basketball game up close,” Roderick said. “It was really cool. It was an awesome experience, really eye-opening, too. Just like the level of competition, it's number one. When (Holtmann and his coaching staff) came to Ohio State, it was pretty cool. I thought, 'Wow, what a coincidence they come here.' Now they're recruiting me, which is awesome.”
Roderick had a chance to sign with a mid-major program during the Early Signing Period in mid-November, but opted not to, citing his return to practice from injury coinciding with the dates allotted to sign.
However, waiting until this spring to sign a National Letter of Intent with a program also leaves more time for other schools to potentially offer him. He returned to the court this fall and is averaging nearly 30 points per game for Olentangy Liberty as a senior.
Recently, Roderick has visited both Ohio State and Xavier. He went on an unofficial visit to Xavier on Jan. 13 and visited Ohio State on Jan. 23, sitting behind the bench and watching the Buckeyes take on Purdue.
At times, recruiting can be complicated, and Roderick’s ACL injury certainly hasn’t made the process easy. While rehabilitating, Ohio State filled out its 2019 recruiting class with DJ Carton, E.J. Liddell and Alonzo Gaffney. The program is allowed 13 scholarships, and when Liddell committed on Oct. 1, all 13 were accounted for, seemingly ending the Buckeyes’ pursuit of 2019 prospects, including Roderick.
But two days before the season began, Micah Potter announced his transfer from the program, opening up a scholarship.
“When Potter transferred, I knew there was a little sliver of hope, and we'll see what happens,” Roderick said.
Ohio State hasn’t been reported to be interested in any 2019 prospect other than Roderick. Holtmann and Pedon have watched him play a couple games, and Roderick expects them to attend another game of his in the next couple weeks.
The Buckeyes have a few options. They can use their 13th scholarship on Roderick, use it for a graduate transfer or choose not use it in 2019 and stash it away to use on a 2020 prospect.
Ohio State’s 2019 class including a point guard and two lanky forwards in their 2019 class, but not a Roderick-like wing. In the next couple months, Holtmann must determine whether or not to offer a scholarship to the local product.
“I think I can do it all,” Roderick said. “I can really score in every (way): 3-pointer, I can drive to the hoop, I can pull up and score. And then also, I feel like I'm improving on my defense, and I think that's an area I've got to improve on.”
Roderick grew up a Buckeye fan just 20 minutes from Ohio State’s campus, and he has attended many games.
“It's always been a dream to play there,” Roderick said.
If Holtmann opts to offer Roderick a scholarship, that dream could quickly become a reality.
But for now, while engrossed in the recruiting world, he’s also focused focused on leading Olentangy Liberty to the district finals for the first time in his high school career.
“I'm just kind of going with the flow,” Roderick said. “I'm just trying to take it day by day. I talk to my parents almost every day about it and just see what they say, and we'll make a decision when the time's right.”