Welcome to the Full Court Press, your weekly destination for offseason Ohio State basketball recruiting updates.
Not long ago, Ibrahima Diallo planned to have his recruitment wrapped up by the end of March.
Nearly a week into April, though, he still hasn't made a decision between Ohio State and Pittsburgh, his two finalists. Diallo, a 7-foot defense-first center with a 7-foot-9 wingspan, visited both schools in the past two months and holds offers from each program. Though he initially intended to choose by now, 247Sports reported he would take "a little while longer" to make a decision.
Diallo has given no public indications about when he plans to announce a commitment. He cannot sign a National Letter of Intent until April 17, when the regular signing period opens.
The addition of a big man to back up Kaleb Wesson became even more of a need with Jaedon LeDee entering the transfer portal. Alabama graduate transfer and one-time Buckeye center Daniel Giddens reportedly took a visit this week.
A commitment from Diallo would ease the concern about Wesson's backup, though the big man has been called raw, a descriptor Prolific Prep coach Billy McKnight clarifies but doesn't shy away from.
"Normally what people are looking at when they look at that is offensively," Prolific Prep coach Billy McKnight said in March. "Yeah, OK, he might be raw offensively, but defensively he's anything but. So it's kind of one of those things where I guess it depends on what side of the ball you're looking at. Clint Capela with the Houston Rockets, he never does anything except screens and roll and dunk. Is he raw? Well, maybe. But he also understands what he's got to be good at."
Diallo uses his length to alter and block shots, controlling the paint on defense. He's not a back-to-the-basket center on offense, but if the Buckeyes land him, they could get immediate production on defense.
Getting Back To Columbus Soon
Brush's John Hugley has heard the comparisons, and he agrees with them.
At 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, Hugley has often had people compare him to Ohio State center Kaleb Wesson, who also stands 6-foot-9, weighing 270 pounds.
"A lot of people compare me to Kaleb," Hugley said. "We're both big. He can score, I can score. We play the same a little bit."
— chet mason (@ChetMason32) October 29, 2017
The Buckeyes haven't offered Hugley, but the coaching staff has been well aware of him for a while.
Hugley is the No. 151 overall prospect in the class of 2020 and the fourth-ranked prospect from the state of Ohio. Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Penn State, Xavier, Dayton and a host of mid-major programs have offered him scholarships. The Panthers and Buckeyes are two of the teams talking to him the most, he said.
Ohio State hasn't extended an offer, but Chris Holtmann reached out to Brush coach Chet Mason in February and attended a game. The Buckeyes' coaches have watched multiple of Hugley's games in person, and he has taken multiple visits to Columbus throughout the years.
Hugley said he hasn't been to Ohio State in a while, but is "going to get back up there soon."
As a junior at Brush, Hugley averaged 16.1 points, 12.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, earning himself All-Ohio special mention.
"I'm a scorer," Hugley said. "I'm a good defender. I'm really a scorer, though."
Though he's a load to deal with in the post at his size, Hugley doesn't view himself as a center at the next level.
"I'm more of center in high school," Hugley said. "But when I get to the college, I'm going to turn into a four."
In order to prepare himself for the position at the collegiate level, Hugley has spent much of the past year focusing on improving his motor and athleticism. Those goals have led to him to try to slim down and work on his legs.
Playing For Buckeyes A “Dream”
To call West Geauga's Josh Irwin a lifelong Ohio State fan wouldn't do his family justice. The born-and-raised Northeast Ohioan has scarlet and gray in his blood.
"It all started with my dad's grandpa," Irwin said. "He passed it on to my grandpa. He passed it on to my dad. So my dad, we don't miss a game, no matter if it's basketball or football. We don't miss one game."
Irwin, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound 2021 prospect, has fond memories watching the Buckeyes' football team win the national championship in 2015. His favorite Ohio State player growing up was Aaron Craft due to his defensive intensity.
So even though he had already been on a visit to campus before, when assistant coach Ryan Pedon invited him to take a visit to Columbus at the beginning of November, Irwin was thrilled.
"It was definitely surreal because I can always envision myself playing Division I basketball, and since I grew up an Ohio State fan, it was just pretty crazy for me to tour that facility and have the coaches talk to me and everything," Irwin said.
— Coach J (@JeffJavorek) November 4, 2018
Irwin has offers from Bowling Green and Miami (Ohio). In the past year he has taken visits to Ohio State, Youngstown State, Miami (Ohio), Bowling Green and Michigan, though he referred to the Wolverines as "TTUN." He also said he's talking to Dayton's coaches.
Prep Hoops ranked Irwin as the sixth-best prospect in Northeast Ohio this week. He averaged 19 points and 15 rebounds per game, setting both the single-season and career records for rebounds at West Geauga as a sophomore.
Though Irwin has taken advantage of his relative size advantage in high school by crashing the boards, college coaches – including Pedon – envision him playing on the wing.
"Coach Pedon has stressed ball handling," Irwin said. "He's watched some of my workouts, and he's watched some of my games. He says he really envisions me playing the three."
Irwin noted that he has spent much of the past two years working to improve his handles. As a kid, he grew up playing inside due to his size, and coaches never allowed him to shoot from beyond the arc.
While his 3-point shooting developed quickly once he was allowed to take shots from range and has caught the eyes of Ohio State's coaches, he knows he has to step up his ball handling in order to have a chance of earning an offer.
If Irwin eventually has a chance to play for the Buckeyes, there would be no doubting his elation.
"It would be a dream because I've been dreaming about it, envisioning myself doing that since I was 4 or 5 years old," Irwin said.