Welcome to the Full Court Press, your destination for offseason Ohio State basketball recruiting updates.
Seven months before four-star wing Eugene Brown ever received an offer from Ohio State and six months before he began hearing from the Buckeyes, he pondered whether he’d ever play basketball again.
Near the beginning of his junior season with Southwest DeKalb High School, the promising Georgia native broke his leg. The mind-numbing pain, he said, was unlike anything he had ever felt before.
“On the way to the hospital, I definitely thought my career was over,” Brown told Eleven Warriors on Thursday. “So there was a lot of emotions going with that. But after surgery, I knew everything was going to be fine and all that stuff. My spirits got lifted.”
Brown called the recovery process “up and down.” He wasn’t able to leave his house for a while, which left him hurting that he couldn’t help his team, which lost games he didn’t think they’d lose if he were able to set foot on the court.
In March at the end of his high school team’s season, he managed to get back on the court to play in a semifinal game. Then he began playing with AOT on the Nike EYBL circuit before he needed a screw removed from his leg because, due to his lean frame, it caused pain rubbing against his knee.
During the time off due to injury, though, Brown’s recruitment didn’t slip much, he said.
“It actually didn't slow down, but I was definitely worried about the offers and everything,” Brown said. “Once I got hurt, new schools started calling, actually.”
Ohio State’s coaching staff didn’t reach out until June, Brown said. But once they began intently watching the 6-foot-6, 170-pounder, they took an interest.
On June 25, three days after Chris Holtmann watched him in person, the Buckeyes extended an offer to Brown, the No. 116 overall prospect and 26th-ranked shooting guard in the class of 2020.
“They said they liked my length, my ability to defend, my size and my ability to score,” Brown said.
A look at some of Eugene Browns work at the #NCAAGeorgia Team Camp last week.— SUVtv (@SUVtv) June 26, 2019
Picked up an offer from Ohio State today
Additional : https://t.co/kRdujdjB47
@gene__11 @Swdbasketball @OSUHoopsInsider @osu_hoops @MathurineAgency #SUVtv pic.twitter.com/wImpgQPz8C
Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Texas A&M, Xavier and Butler have also offered him scholarships.
Brown already has two official visits set; he plans to visit Texas A&M on Aug. 28-30 and Xavier on Sept. 4-6. He also said he’s working on setting up an official visit to Ohio State, which will be important since he said he has never even been to the state of Ohio.
“After I take the visits to Ohio State, Xavier and Texas A&M, I plan to cut my list down to five,” Brown said.
Since he plans to make a decision this fall, it’ll be imperative for Ohio State to impress on the eventual official visit. The Buckeyes currently have one open scholarship in 2020, and Brown is among the wings they’re pursuing.
Brown, who plays for his dad on his high school team, will provide a deft shooting touch to whichever team lands him, and he has worked to expand his offensive game in the past couple years.
“I'd describe my game as all-around,” Brown said. “Probably my best ability is shooting. But I try to defend, I try to lead, communicate, do everything I can to help my team win. I feel like my ball-handling's underrated, and it's something that I work on a lot just to make sure that's at the level of my other abilities.”
Keon Johnson decides in a week
It’s almost decision time for four-star shooting guard Keon Johnson.
The Bell Buckle, Tennessee, native will make his choice between Ohio State and the Volunteers public on Tuesday evening. He announced those two schools along with Virginia as his finalists on May 14, but he dropped the Cavaliers out of consideration once Jabri Abdur-Rahim committed.
As of now, it appears as though he’s likely to choose to remain in his home state and commit to Tennessee. All nine crystal ball on 247Sports – including one from Evan Daniels, the site’s director of recruiting – are currently in favor of the Volunteers. They have seemed to hold the lead in his recruitment since the Buckeyes increased their focus on Johnson when Holtmann hired Jake Diebler as an assistant coach in April.
Diebler had built such a strong relationship with Johnson, the No. 31 overall prospect in the class of 2020, when he was an assistant coach at Vanderbilt that he placed Ohio State among his final three schools before even visiting Columbus or meeting Holtmann in person. The Buckeyes then appeared to close the gap after he took an official visit in June.
“It was actually a lot better than what I thought,” Johnson told Eleven Warriors on July 5. “I had never seen the facilities or the city at all, and so I was all in awe whenever I stepped foot on campus.”
Johnson also said distance is not a factor in his recruitment.
No matter which school he attends, Johnson will provide his team with top-flight athleticism and relentless defense. Recruiting analysts, including Rivals’ Corey Evans, have recently contemplated making him a five-star prospect. At 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds, Johnson has a skill set that will make him a dangerous college player with NBA potential.
Ryan Kalkbrenner to visit this weekend
Kalkbrenner, who attends Trinity Catholic High School in St. Louis, is the No. 77 overall prospect and 13th-ranked center in the 2020 class. He entered the grassroots season outside of the top 175 players in his class, but a strong spring and summer vaulted him more than 100 spots in the rankings and led to a bevy of offers, including one from the Buckeyes on June 7.
At 6-foot-11, 210 pounds, Kalkbrenner has shown plenty of defensive promise inside. He averaged 4.5 blocked shots per game in 13 games on the Nike EYBL circuit with Mac Irvin Fire.
Kalkbrenner, on a trip around the midwest, will also take unofficial visits to Cincinnati, Purdue and Northwestern within the next week, per Stockrisers.
Ohio State makes Jalen Bridges’ top 10
Cut list season has begun.
Four-star forward Jalen Bridges included Ohio State in his top 10, along with Alabama, Miami, Indiana, Xavier, Texas A&M, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, USC and Oklahoma State. He released the list on Monday.
Top 10! pic.twitter.com/t8x7TXAbwf— jalen (@jalenbridgess) July 29, 2019
Bridges, a Fairmont, West Virginia, native, is the No. 83 overall prospect and 20th-ranked small forward in the 2020 class. The 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward is known for his shooting stroke and defense, and he has worked to expand his offensive game in the past year, which led to a rise in the rankings.
The Buckeyes offered him a scholarship during an unofficial visit on June 28. In order to have a shot to land Bridges, they’ll likely need to get him back on campus for an official visit in the coming months.
Moses Moody has an official visit set
Four-star shooting guard Moses Moody has not yet taken a visit – either unofficially or officially – to Ohio State, but he expects that to change soon.
In an interview with Rivals, Moody said he has a date set for an official visit – likely in August – but wasn’t sure when off the top of his head. He mentioned that he likes the coaching staff and has a strong relationship with freshman E.J. Liddell, with whom he played on the Nike EYBL circuit in 2018.
Moody, the No. 40 overall prospect and eighth-ranked shooting guard in 2020, would be a major addition for the Buckeyes, if they manage to land him. They’ll have stiff competition for the sweet-shooting guard, though.
As an Arkansas native, Moody has had the Razorbacks after him for a while, and that pursuit is continuing under new coach Eric Musselman. He attends Montverde Academy in Florida, so naturally the Gators are also pursuing him. Kansas and Alabama also offered him scholarships in the past week.
In the interview with Rivals, Moody said he plans to take “a couple” official visits in August before narrowing his list.
Ohio State’s second publicly known 2022 offer
Buchtel’s Chris Livingston became the first 2022 prospect to pick up an offer from Ohio State in August 2018. For nearly a year, he remained the only player in his class with a known offer from Holtmann.
Ryan Nembhard changed that, becoming the second 2022 recruit to earn an Ohio State offer on July 23, per Corey Evans of Rivals. The currently unranked point guard already holds offers from Florida and Stanford, signaling his expected development into a top recruit.
Nembhard, whose brother, Andrew, plays for the Florida Gators, is a native Canadian. He attends Montverde Academy in Florida, the same prep school that produced D’Angelo Russell.
One-time targets heading elsewhere
A few one-time Ohio State targets are no longer considering Holtmann’s team.
The Buckeyes simultaneously extended offers to Indiana guards Anthony Leal and Trey Galloway on July 16, but they made their move too late in the process. Leal announced his two finalists – Indiana and Stanford – on July 25, and Galloway committed to play for the Hoosiers on July 26.
Four-star small forward Cam’Ron Fletcher said he intended to visit Ohio State this summer, but that never happened. He released five finalists – Michigan State, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina and Alabama – last month.
Four-star wing Earl Timberlake is also headed elsewhere. Ohio State offered him and he expressed an interest in taking a visit. That never materialized, though, and he released a top seven without the Buckeyes.