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If you hadn’t heard Josiah Harris’ name until recently, it would’ve made sense.
A month ago, the 6-foot-7 forward didn’t have any high-major offers. Yes, the Richmond Heights sophomore had put together a standout season for Richmond Heights, averaging 20.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, but major recruiting services hadn’t even ranked him among his 2022 classmates.
Since then, he’s blown up – even though, due to NCAA rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, no college coach has been allowed to him in person.
Offers have rolled in from West Virginia, Southern Methodist, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Wichita State and Ohio State. The Aggies, Buckeyes and Shockers offered him scholarships consecutively on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Harris didn’t see this outburst coming, saying it has happened “really fast.”
“It's really just a blessing and it feels amazing to know that these colleges are recruiting me, and it's showing that my hard work's starting to pay off,” Harris told Eleven Warriors on Wednesday. “It's really motivated me to be better because I've still got some room to grow. It's just, I'm coming a long way from last year and just developing.”
Understanding Harris’ rising status among a 2022 crop of Ohioans that has a chance to become be the best to come through the state in many years, the Buckeyes have monitored him dating back to the beginning of his play on the Nike EYBL circuit last summer.
Since then, assistant coach Jake Diebler has built up a “really strong” relationship with him, talking often about their families – “I love it,” he says. Diebler watched Harris play with Richmond Heights as a sophomore once by himself and twice with Chris Holtmann. Ohio State’s coaches also attended a number of open gyms, during which he said he played “really well.”
Harris returned the favors by taking three unofficial visits over the past year, including a trip to see the football team take on Cincinnati on Sept. 7 and a jaunt south on Interstate-71 to see the basketball team face Wisconsin on Jan. 3.
“I love how big it is, the atmosphere,” Harris said. “They love the sports down there. Columbus is just, it's an amazing area. It's a winning program and I just love that about it. It's like a family down there.”
Harris, who lived in Cleveland and Canton before moving to Richmond Heights, didn’t grow up a Buckeyes fan but he has seen plenty of games.
Now, because of what happened on a three-way Zoom call with Holtmann and Diebler on Tuesday, he’ll have the option of playing for Ohio State. Of course, he has plenty of time to make a decision since 2022 prospects can’t sign National Letters of Intent for a year and a half.
“(Holtmann) was just telling me how he loves my game and just telling me a lot about the program and how he loves how I developed over the last year with him recruiting me,” Harris said. “He just loves the kid I am and how I've been outside of basketball, as well, because it's not always just about what you do on the court. It's about what you can do outside, as well, and he really appreciated that or really liked that. He offered me a scholarship. He said he thinks I'd be a great fit for his program.”
During the conversation, Harris says he thought an offer might be coming but was still caught off-guard when the words came out of Holtmann’s mouth.
“It's really a blessing,” Harris said. “It's really crazy to me. I'm literally left speechless. It's just amazing because a lot of people want that offer and just dream of going to Ohio State, and them recruiting me like this, it's just amazing.”
His versatility, he says, was a major draw for the Buckeyes coaching staff.
“I can defend the one through five on defense,” Harris said. “I can shoot the ball very well, so spacing out the floor wouldn't be a problem. I can play multiple positions on offense, and I really think I'm a mismatch problem.”
Recruiting services list Harris at 6-foot-5. In reality, they’re still catching up to his rise heigh-wise the same way they’re making up ground on his ranking.
Harris says he’s grown to 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, making him a potential small forward or power forward at the next level.
“As a matter of fact, I've grown over this whole quarantine,” Harris said. “I'm about to go to the doctor once this is over to see how tall I actually am now. But I've for sure grown.”
As he has grown, so too has his count of scholarship offers.
Expanding His Game
The first time AJ Clayton played on the Nike EYBL circuit, he noticed the big men, many of them taller than him. Though some played inside, he saw the fluidity with which they moved and how far out they often stretched their shot. That was a wake-up call for someone with dreams of playing on a major college team before getting a shot in the NBA.
His doctors told him at the time he’d likely end up at 6-foot-8, and, well, he’s there now.
“I don't know if I'm going to get a whole lot taller, so at a big school I'm not a center and that's what I've played my whole life,” the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Clayton told Eleven Warriors on Wednesday. “So I'm kind of working on a forward mix.”
Clayton, a 2022 prospect who lives in Roseville and attends Philo, hasn’t had a Harris-esque blow-up on the recruiting trail yet, but it’s still exceedingly early for prospects in his class. Only one top-50 prospect in the cycle has even made a commitment yet.
As of now, he holds offers from Ohio University and Cleveland State. He said they’re among the programs that he says talk to him most frequently, along with Valparaiso and Saint Joseph's. Clayton would’ve had a chance to impress coaches playing for All-Ohio Red on the Nike EYBL circuit this spring and summer, but because of the pandemic it has been suspended indefinitely.
“I'm bummed,” Clayton said. “I loved the circuit. I loved the team I played with. I loved all those guys. I was just excited to go out there and hopefully go to Peach Jam and make a run for it and just kind of get to do that all again.”
Philo sophomore AJ Clayton is INTRIGUING— Zach Fleer (@ZachFleer270) April 9, 2020
The 6-foot-8 forward is one of the ELITE prospects in the state, as he can do just about anything at his size @ajclayton4 @CoachJasonTrout pic.twitter.com/OhSESNKWpO
Ohio State, which he says his grandparents root for, has stayed in contact, with Diebler talking to Clayton and assistant coach Ryan Pedon maintaining a dialogue with one of his coaches. He took a pair of unofficial visits to Columbus – which is located an hour west of his hometown – over the past year, seeing both a football game and a basketball game while on trips.
Right now, Clayton doesn’t have any high-major offers, but Harris showed how quickly that can change. He's ranked as the top 2022 power forward in Ohio, per Triple Double Prospects.
Clayton averaged 18.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and three blocks per game as a sophomore while hitting 51 percent of his shots and making 32 3-pointers. He mentioned that he thinks he’s most impactful as a defender and rebounder, though he’s worked mostly on his shooting and ball-handling over the course of the past year.
“I like to think I'm more of a stretch forward,” Clayton said. “I like to run and get out there and just kind of run. I don't want to play slow and stuff. I just want to keep going.”
New Offer Up North
Ty Rodgers, a four-star 2022 small forward from Grand Blanc, Michigan, picked up his first scholarship from a Big Ten program this week.
No, it didn’t come from Michigan or Michigan State. Ohio State pulled the trigger first, extending a scholarship on Wednesday.
Rodgers, the No. 56 overall prospect in his class, is the second-rated prospect from Michigan. He holds other offers from Marquette, Houston and Rhode Island, with many sure to follow. The 6-foot-4 wing took an unofficial visit to Ohio State in mid-August.
Final 247Sports 2020 Rankings
In any normal year, both Eugene Brown III and Zed Key would be gearing up to enroll at Ohio State in a month. Instead, they’re stuck at home, unsure about when they’ll be allowed to get to Columbus.
While in their hometowns, 247Sports dropped their final rankings for the 2020 cycle. Here's where the pair of Buckeyes signees ended.
- Brown: No. 116 overall per composite and No. 113 overall per 247Sports
- Key: No. 136 overall per composite and No. 150 overall per 247Sports
Brown’s new ranking is 11 spots lower than where 247Sports had him prior to the update. Key’s ranking rose substantially due to a strong senior season with New York’s Long Island Lutheran. He was outside of the top-150 overall prospects beforehand and rose from being the 35th-ranked center to the No. 27 center.
Unable to evaluate prospects in person, host recruits on visits or meet with them and their families face-to-face, Ohio State – along with every other school – has done what it can to virtually stay active with high schoolers.
On Wednesday evening, Holtmann and his staff hosted four-star shooting guard Jordan Longino on a virtual visit. The 6-foot-5, 170-pound guard from Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, picked up an Ohio State offer in January. He's ranked as the No. 61 overall prospect and 12th-best shooting guard in 2021. Villanova and Virginia appear to be the top contenders right now.
The Buckeyes also reportedly have hosted Malaki Branham, their top 2021 target, on virtual calls. He's been a priority recruit for a while, having picked up his offer from them in May 2019. The St. Vincent-St. Mary combo guard is ranked No. 26 overall in his class. Louisville and Xavier are among the top competition, though he's continued to pull in offers recently, with Pittsburgh, Dayton and Marquette offering him over the past couple weeks.
Offers Rolling In
Harris hasn't been the only 2022 Ohioan to roll in the offers over the past month.
Sean Jones, a 5-foot-10 point guard for Gahanna Lincoln, now has 12 offers, with some of them from high-major programs. This list of schools that have pulled the trigger includes Mississippi State, Houston, SMU, Xavier, Wichita State, VCU, Duquesne, Kent State, Ohio University, Cleveland State, Toledo and Grambling State. Since April began, he's picked up five offers, including his first high-major offers.
Like Harris, he isn't ranked yet by major recruiting sites, but he's garnering significant college interest early in the process.
Living so close to Ohio State's campus, Jones will certainly be someone to watch over the next 18 months. Ohio has an intriguing bunch of point guards in the 2022 cycle, with St. Vincent-St. Mary's Sencire Harris and Cincinnati Woodward's Paul McMillan IV both ranked as top-50 overall prospects.
As of now, the Buckeyes don't have any scholarship offers out to any 2022 point guards.