Ohio State has started to roll.
Winning five of its past six games, including an 83-79 victory against Penn State on Wednesday, the Buckeyes are up to No. 13 in the Associated Press top-25 poll and have a chance to rise even further if they cap off the week by beating Michigan State on Sunday in the Schottenstein Center.
Their two 2021 signees (Malaki Branham, Kalen Etzler) and three 2022 commits (Roddy Gayle, Bruce Thornton, Bowen Hardman) have also spent the past month or two getting their seasons underway. Several of them have crossed milestones, and one even had to move across the country to play basketball.
Here's a look at how the three four-star recruits and two three-star prospects have done so far in the 2020-21 season.
Four-star combo guard, 2021, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School (Ohio)
The highest-rated signee of the Chris Holtmann era has propelled the Irish to an 11-2 record, only falling to in-state powerhouse Cincinnati Moeller early in the season and to Maryland's DeMatha Catholic last week. Branham's play has helped St. Vincent-St. Mary stay at No. 1 in cleveland.com's rankings.
“I didn't know I had it,” Branham told the Akron Beacon Journal. “I knew I had a chance for it this year. I'm blessed that I've been able to score 1,000 points.”
Branham, the top-ranked Ohioan in the 2021 cycle, is currently on the precipice of five-star status. As the fourth-highest-ranked four-star recruit in his class, he's the sixth-best shooting guard.
A look at some clips from this season:
Three-star power forward, 2021, Crestview High School (Ohio)
Just days after Branham reached 1,000 points, Etzler – the No. 143 overall recruit in 2021 – hit the same milestone. The Convoy native did it at Crestview, where he's played his entire high school career for his local team and his senior season with the tutelage of his uncle Doug Etzler, a former Buckeye.
Etzler had propelled Crestview to a 12-4 record, including a 5-1 mark within its conference. He's averaging 19.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 blocks and 0.6 steals per game. The 6-foot-8 forward has knocked down 1.6 3-pointers per game, too.
A look at some action from early in the season:
Four-star shooting guard, 2022, Wasatch Academy (Utah)
Five weeks ago, Gayle chose to leave his hometown of Youngstown, New York, and local high school Lewiston-Porter Senior to play basketball his junior season for Wasatch Academy, a prep school in Mount Pleasant, Utah, with a loaded hoops team. He opted for this route due to the unknown of whether he'd get a chance to play the sport this season in the state of New York.
Gayle, the No. 46 overall prospect in the 2022 cycle, now plays on a loaded team with numerous future college players, including senior Kentucky-bound point guard Nolan Hickman. Getting integrated in the midst of the season into a talent-laden team with four players who score in double-figures, he's averaging 8.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists in six games.
A look at Gayle playing for the Utah prep school:
Four-star point guard, 2022, Milton High School (Georgia)
Going by the rankings, Thornton is a composite four-star recruit and the No. 60 overall prospect in the country. But with Rivals bumping him to 12th in its 2022 class rankings and 247Sports having him at No. 26 overall, it feels like only a matter of time until he's a composite five-star recruit. What's holding him back is ESPN not having him among its top-60 players.
Regardless of the rankings, Thornton has put on a show this season on one of the nation's best teams. With Thornton at point guard and a team captain, Milton is 17-2 overall and 7-0 within its conference. It's currently riding a 15-game winning streak. His season-long statistics are unavailable, but in nine games recorded by Season Ticket, he's averaging 20.1 points per game while shooting 51.9 percent from the floor, going 23-for-24 from the foul line and 4-for-10 from 3.
A look at Thornton's play so far:
Bruce Thornton finished with 19pts, 7ast in the @milton_hoops OT win vs. Cherokee last night@Bruce2T_ @WhitehartHoops @MiltonHighSch @TSFMack2022 @coach_agibbs @OhioStateHoops @OSUHoopsInsider @JHillsman @CoachLewPreston @TWoodieSUV @MathurineAgency @TheSkillFactory #SUVtv pic.twitter.com/9GfbAOlxs0— SUVtv (@SUVtv) January 27, 2021
Three-star shooting guard, 2022, Princeton High School (Ohio)
Amid a season with several postponements and cancellations, Princeton holds a 4-4 record behind a team-high 13.6 points per game from Hardman, a 6-foot-4 guard. The junior is the only in-state commit in the 2022 class thus far.
Averaging 27.7 minutes in seven games, Hardman's scoring has fluctuated between five and 24 points, three times reaching 17 points and above and three times not reaching double-figures. He's shooting 35.7 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent on 54 3-point attempts. His threes make up 64 percent of his shot attempts.
Some clips from an early-season game: