Welcome to the Full Court Press, your destination for offseason Ohio State basketball recruiting updates.
Jalen Bridges understands the climb.
Originally when the 6-foot-8, 205-pound small forward appeared as a prospect in the 247Sports database on Sept. 25, the recruiting service listed him as the No. 248 overall prospect in his class. By the time his junior year of high school ended, he had barely climbed 20 spots in the 2020 rankings. On May 21, he still remained outside of the top 200, checking in at No. 202.
Then came the leap.
In a June 15 update, Bridges jumped more than 100 spots, moving from a three-star prospect to the No. 82 prospect in the country, a coveted four-star recruit. He currently sits at No. 83, and he could rise even further after an impressive weekend with Wildcats Select at the Adidas Gauntlet.
“I think it's because I've improved a lot,” Bridges told Eleven Warriors on Tuesday. “I just seem like a more complete basketball player. And then also every time I go out on the court I don't care, I don't even pay too much attention to rankings. So I don't care who you are, I want to guard you, and I don't want you to score on me. And that competitiveness, I think it just pushed me in front of other people.”
Bridges’ offers have come in flurries, and they have continued to pour in, with Alabama, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and USC each offering him scholarships in a four-day stretch this week.
Ohio State extended an offer to Bridges while hosting the prospect for an unofficial visit on June 28, which came four days after Archie Miller’s Indiana staff pulled the trigger on an offer.
“We talked a little bit (about a visit), but I'd say after I got the Indiana offer it became a little bit more serious,” Bridges said. “And then they got me on campus and they offered.”
The Fairmont, West Virginia, native who will play his senior year of high school for Scotland Campus in Scotland, Pennsylvania, after choosing last summer to reclassify from the 2019 class to the 2020 class went through a typical summer unofficial visit.
He checked out the basketball facilities, met with Chris Holtmann, visited the academic advisers, got a tour of Ohio Stadium, met with the strength and conditioning coach and learned about the nutrition program, which he said stood out as a positive. After he thought he was finished, Holtmann had something else to tell him.
“We were basically done with the visit,” Bridges said. “We had done everything. We talked then toured the campus, academic advisers, strength coach, stuff like that. Then when we went back and talked to him, he offered.”
Bridges said he didn’t expect the offer but was happy to receive it.
Ohio State, he said, appreciates his versatility, which both led to the offer and jives with what other programs like about him. He said he can play shooting guard, small forward and power forward and can defend every position except center.
“I'd say I'm a two-way player,” Bridges said. “I really like playing defense. I like trying to go at the other team's best player. Then on offense, I space the floor with my shot, attack the basket and create shots and driving lanes for my teammates off ball movement.”
Killers Kill. pic.twitter.com/BInhujJrHC— jalen (@jalenbridgess) July 16, 2019
He went from being a heavy spot-up 3-point shooter a year ago to improving his ability to score on all three levels of the court, which has boosted the amount of schools interested in him.
Still, he prides himself on his defense and tenacity.
“I would say it's just a West Virginia thing,” Bridges said. “Players in the state of West Virginia, we just grow up watching the Mountaineers playing. They pride themselves on defense. I guess we just try to emulate that. Everybody here plays really good defense.”
If Bridges chooses to remain in his home state, Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers would certainly love to have him. West Virginia, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Xavier and Miami are among the other schools interested in him.
Bridges plans to cut his list but remain open to new schools in early August. He said he will “probably” take an official visit to Ohio State at some point.
A Canadien Offer
Charles Bediako hasn’t slept much in the past month. Basketball has taken precedence.
The four-star center’s journey began when he traveled to France with Canada’s U19 FIBA World Cup team in late June. There, Bediako spent about five days before heading to Greece for the FIBA tournament, which featured some of the best under-19 players in the world. At 17 years old, he played two age groups up and was the youngest player on his team. After six games in eight days, he took a 12-hour flight from Greece to Toronto, where he only spent one day before leaving in a bus on a 14-hour drive to Georgia to play with the U16 UPLAY Canada team at Peach Jam, the famed Nike EYBL grassroots event.
Finally, Bediako can get some sleep – but not until after an impromptu phone call from Holtmann.
Ohio State hosted Bediako, who plays for ISA at Andrews Osborne Academy in Willoughby, for a visit in November, and the coaches have been tracking his progress in the eight months since then. At last weekend’s Peach Jam, Bediako said, he saw a Buckeyes coach at each game he played. Shortly after he completed his games, assistant coach Ryan Pedon sent him a text to let him know “the whole coaching staff really loved” him. He also mentioned Holtmann might soon reach out.
On Monday night, he got the call from Holtmann who extended an offer.
“He was just talking to me, saying, ‘We really like you,’” Bediako told Eleven Warriors on Tuesday. “He said he wanted to call to officially offer me a scholarship to Ohio State. Honestly, I was excited. I was excited, but I just kept poised.”
Bediako, a 6-foot-11, 215-pound center, now holds offers from Illinois, Ohio, Rutgers, Detroit and the Buckeyes. Marquette and Texas recently reached out, and Kentucky, Michigan State, Maryland, Dayton and Xavier have reportedly expressed interest. After his recent performances, that list will continue to grow.
Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz, draft analysts for ESPN, mentioned Bediako as a future NBA prospect to watch after seeing him play in Greece. He’s currently the No. 65 overall prospect and ninth-ranked center in the 2021 cycle.
Ohio State has positioned itself well early in the recruitment of Bediako, a native Canadian who plays for ISA at Andrews Osborne Academy in Willoughby. After his November visit to Columbus, he told Eleven Warriors that he felt the Buckeyes were the first team that “really wanted” him, and the interest hasn’t changed eight months later.
“Coach Ryan, he calls frequently, we talk,” Bediako said. “I still have that great feeling. Even when I posted about (the offer), the fan base, a lot of Ohio State people there just congratulating me. It just puts a smile on my face.”
Bediako is particularly fond of Pedon, who has a similar interest in the big man.
“For coach Ryan, he said basically he likes me, not only likes me as my skills and how much potential I have, but he also likes my character,” Bediako said. “He liked when me and Ryan ran together the pick and roll. He just likes how I have a high motor up and down the floor and I can be versatile. And he also just liked how I was coming along, like from the beginning when he first saw me to now. He told me he was just happy and proud and excited.”
The connection between Bediako and Ohio State added an unexpected variable when ISA recently hired former Buckeyes walk-on-turned-scholarship player Jake Lorbach as an assistant coach.
Bediako hasn’t known Lorbach for long, but they were in contact soon after the offer.
“(Lorbach) texted me actually yesterday,” Bediako said. “He was going crazy.”
Bediako doesn’t have any visits to any school scheduled. Holtmann told him he wants him to visit Ohio State again this fall, though.
Recent Ohio State Offers
Leal, a four-star shooting guard who hails from Bloomington, Indiana, visited Ohio State in June and September of 2018 but didn't pick up an offer from the coaching staff. Since then, he has earned offers from Iowa, Stanford, Northwestern, Indiana and, now, Ohio State.
As a Bloomington, Indiana, native, he's pegged as a likely future Hoosier. But Ohio State has been successful in that city before, pulling Musa Jallow from Bloomington North High School. Leal, at 6-foot-5, 195 pounds, is the No. 96 overall prospect, 19th-ranked shooting guard and top-ranked prospect from Indiana in 2020.
Galloway, the No. 180 overall prospect and 38th-ranked shooting guard in 2020, is from Culver, Indiana. The Buckeyes become the latest program to offer Galloway, who already holds offers from Indiana, Michigan State, Butler, Iowa and others.
Culver Academy's Trey Galloway was offered by Ohio State.— Kyle Neddenriep (@KyleNeddenriep) July 17, 2019
Interestingly, the Indianapolis Star published a story highlighting the bond between Leal and Galloway on Tuesday morning, the same day they earned offers from the Buckeyes. In the article by Zach Osterman, both Leal and Galloway say they have talked about the possibility of playing together in college.
Three weeks ago, four-star wing Eugene Brown picked up an offer from Ohio State. Holtmann watched him play in person three days prior and opted to pull the trigger. Brown is the No. 118 overall prospect and 26th-ranked shooting guard in 2020. The Decatur, Georgia, native holds offers from Butler, Xavier, Clemson and others.
Bryce Hopkins, a four-star small forward from Oak Park, Illinois, blew up on the recruiting scene a few weeks ago. He reeled in offers from six power conference programs in five days, culminating with an offer from Ohio State on June 27.
Blessed to say that I have received a D1 offer from The Ohio State University pic.twitter.com/xrE4VWU5qC— Bryce Hopkins (@BryceHopkins24) June 27, 2019
The 6-foot-7, 220-pound wing is the No. 94 overall prospect in 2021. Indiana, Texas, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Iowa State are among the programs that have extended offers to Hopkins.
Four-star point guard Carter Whitt became the latest 2021 prospect to earn an offer on Wednesday.
Excited to receive an offer from Ohio State! pic.twitter.com/vjgRYMX27v— Carter (@carterwhitt) July 17, 2019
Whitt, a North Carolina native, is the No. 51 overall prospect and eighth-ranked point guard in his class.
What Ohio State is looking for in 2020
At this point in the 2019 recruiting cycle, Ohio State had commitments from DJ Carton and Alonzo Gaffney. It already has a commitment from 2021 power forward Kalen Etzler.
So, what about the 2020 class?
Ohio State still doesn't have any commitments, and it's not a clear favorite for any of its targets. If the coaches had more spots to fill, that would be a major issue. At the moment, though, there's only one scholarship available for the 2020 class, which will open once Andre Wesson graduates after the upcoming season. The natural attrition that takes place in college basketball, either by players transferring or someone, such as Kaleb Wesson, opting to turn pro, could increase the number of open spots to two or three by next spring. But that's bordering on impossible to project with any degree of certainty right now.
A successful fall signing period in Ohio State's mind, a source told Eleven Warriors, would be to sign one 2020 prospect between Nov. 13 and 20. Since the coaching staff is targeting two types of players – wings and big men – it's certainly possible that Ohio State adds multiple recruits in the class. But that's unlikely to happen by the early signing period.
Galloway, Leal, Brown, Bridges, Lance Ware, Zed Key and Ryan Kalkbrenner have picked up offers from Ohio State in the past month and a half, and all remain options for the Buckeyes. Various other targets, including Keon Johnson, Zach Loveday, Dawson Garcia, Scottie Barnes, Moses Moody and Mark Williams, are also still uncommitted.
Ohio State should begin narrow its focus on prospects in the coming months.