Summer Recruiting Primer: 12 of Ohio State's Top Hoops Targets to Know As Visits Resume

By Colin Hass-Hill on June 1, 2021 at 11:05 am
A.J. Casey
Credit: 247Sports

There hasn’t been much notable movement on the Ohio State hoops recruiting trail in about six months. Not much movement unless you’re including countless Zooms, text messages and phone calls from Chris Holtmann’s coaching staff to prospects and those around them, along with some recruits including the Buckeyes on their lists of top seven or eight schools.

That’s about to change.

Tuesday marked the first day of the first on-campus recruiting period allowed by the NCAA since an indefinite dead period was instituted on March 13, 2020. Ohio State, along with all other Division I programs, will be allowed to host visitors from June 1 until July 5 as part of a quiet period. On several weekends over the next two months, coaches will also be allowed to hit the road and evaluate prospects in person for the first time in 15 months.

Because of the massive additions made in November when Holtmann landed four-star guards Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle, who joined three-star guard Bowen Hardman as commitments, Ohio State boasts the No. 1 2022 recruiting class in the country. Rounding out the class will be the primary focus for the Buckeyes, who are set to host visitors every single day in June.

“I feel really good about our classes,” Holtmann said on April 28. “I feel really good about it. I feel like we're in good position – have a tremendous start in the ‘22 class and in good position with some other guys. June's going to be an important month for us, both with visits and getting off campus. But I feel like we're in good position. Jake (Diebler) and Ryan (Pedon) have done a phenomenal job in building some relationships. I feel excited about this.”

With Thornton, Gayle, Hardman set to join Malaki Branham, Meechie Johnson and Eugene Brown in a year, Ohio State has its backcourt of the future locked in. The current focus is to fill out the frontcourt.

In the past, Holtmann hasn’t wanted to have more than four players in a recruiting class. Because Ohio State is set to have nine seniors on this upcoming season’s team, that philosophy is expected to take a hiatus. The Buckeyes are looking for both a forward and a big man to complete what would be a five-person 2022 recruiting class.

The following 12 prospects who the Buckeyes are chasing fit their needs in the 2022 class. This, of course, isn’t a comprehensive list. Players could catch the coaches’ eyes throughout June. Recruiting can change quickly.

But as June begins, here are a dozen 2022 recruits (listed in alphabetical order) you should know about as an Ohio State fan.

AJ Casey

6-foot-8, 180 pounds – No. 20 overall, No. 5 PF – Chicago, Illinois

A power forward from Illinois. Sound familiar? Casey, a five-star prospect, is actually rated higher than E.J. Liddell was when he came out of Belleville West. He has a long and skinny build that makes him a prototypical forward who can score in a number of ways – at multiple levels – and play multiple positions. After transferring high schools, he averaged 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game per game for Whitney Young, and he’s now starring for the Meanstreets on the Nike EYBL circuit.

Recruiting somebody out of Chicago is never easy, but the Buckeyes have made real headway with Casey. He plans to take an official visit to Ohio State on June 6-8, giving Holtmann and his staff an early shot at winning him over. At least as of now, the blue bloods haven’t delved much into Casey’s recruitment. Michigan, however, is a primary threat, especially given Juwan Howard’s ties to Chicago. Illinois is pushing hard for him as well. Gonzaga looms, too, since Mark Few offered a scholarship. 

Donovan Clingan

7-foot-1, 255 pounds – No. 41 overall, No. 6 C – Bristol, Connecticut

There are big men. And then there are BIG men. Clingan is the latter. He’s a massive presence in the post who’s unique compared to the players currently on Ohio State’s roster and those in its recent recruiting classes. Standing taller than 7 feet, he can protect the rim and use his developing post offense to cause havoc inside.

Ohio State has wedged its way into the fray enough that it has tentatively set up an official visit to welcome Clingan to town on June 24-25. However, most analysts believe Connecticut is the favorite to land the center. Michigan is also seen as having a good shot at Clingan, especially given last season’s success with Hunter Dickinson. Ohio State and the others in his top-eight – Syracuse, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Georgetown and Providence – have some ground to make up in June. But the official visit gives the Buckeyes a chance to do exactly that.

Kyle Filipowski

6-foot-11, 230 pounds – No. 56 overall, No. 10 PF – Wilbraham, Massachusetts

Few big men with his size in the 2022 recruiting class are quite as offensively dynamic as Filipowski, who has been ascending in the rankings and has a chance to continue to rise. He can take defenders off the bounce, shoot from deep, finish in transition and toss behind-the-back passes. Guys his age at 6-foot-11 rarely have this kind of offensive skill.

For that reason, the Buckeyes – led by Holtmann and Diebler – have been after Filipowski for a while, which is why they’re viewed as one of the teams best positioned for him as the dead period ends. He’s teammates with current commit Roddy Gayle on NY Renaissance of the Nike EYBL, and he plans to take his official visit to Ohio State on June 12-13 with Gayle, Thornton and Hardman all checking out the campus together. Filipowski is also taking officials to Syracuse, Indiana, Iowa and Duke and unofficials to Northwestern and Connecticut in June. All but Duke have offered scholarships. Mike Krzyzewski lingering is never fun for the other schools involved, including the Buckeyes.

Dereck Lively II

7-foot-1, 220 pounds – No. 35 overall, No. 4 C – Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

Much like Filipowski, Lively has shot up the rankings, especially since he has stood out the past couple of weekends while playing with top-ranked Emoni Bates and second-ranked Jalen Duren. He’s a lanky rim protector who is best on the defensive end as his offensive game develops.

Ohio State has been involved in Lively’s recruiting process for a while, initially extending a scholarship offer over a year ago, and it continues to pursue him. But the 7-foot-1 center has recently talked about his interest in the blue bloods and has set up June visits to both Duke and North Carolina. Ohio State, along with schools like Penn State, Kentucky and Kansas, continues to go after him, but the competition is strong. He hasn’t yet said whether or not he’ll visit Columbus this summer, and if that doesn’t happen, it’s difficult to imagine Lively ending up as a Buckeye.

Chris Livingston

6-foot-6, 220 pounds – No. 4 overall, No. 2 SF – Akron, Ohio

Livingston’s nothing short of a freak athlete, the type that hasn’t come out of Akron since a certain 6-foot-8 small forward who’s currently trying to propel the Los Angeles Lakers to another NBA title. If anybody reading this gets a chance to watch his Buchtel team next season, take it. It’ll be a bit until Ohio sees a prospect of his stature – somebody destined to be a lottery draft pick – come through its ranks. Livingston’s a rare talent.

The odds he becomes a Buckeye, however, aren’t great. He has long seemed destined to end up elsewhere, and bypassing the college ranks entirely is a distinct possibility. Penny Hardaway’s Memphis has been floated recently as a favorite. Ohio State’s coaches continue to place calls, with Livingston recently listing the Buckeyes as one of the 10 schools he’s talking to most, but it would be nothing short of a shock if he were to pick them.

Dillon Mitchell

6-foot-7, 180 pounds – No. 129 overall, No. 37 SF – Spring Hill, Florida

Mitchell’s play this spring and summer was impressive enough to earn him 11 new scholarship offers since the beginning of April. He sees himself as a big guard, given his athleticism, but his size and length will likely slot him as a versatile forward in college. Mitchell’s reputation grew, and an Ohio State offer followed, when he limited Emoni Bates with his relentless defense a little over a month ago. He's already risen to borderline five-star status in Rivals’ latest rankings update.

Given all the new interest, it’s hard to get a great gauge on Mitchell’s recruitment, but he is clearly interested in the Buckeyes based on his prioritizing of an official visit. He’ll be in Columbus on June 20-22. Having relatives living in the state of Ohio doesn’t hurt Ohio State’s case. Mitchell has also set up official visits to Auburn and Tennessee in June. 

Felix Okpara

6-foot-11, 210 pounds – No. 37 overall, No. 5 C – Chattanooga, Tennessee

Just last week, the Buckeyes extended a scholarship offer to Okpara, a long, shot-blocking center whose offensive game is ever-expanding and has him working to extend his shooting range. Those who have seen the high-end four-star big man recently have raved about his rim protection. He can run the floor better than most his size. Whether the native Nigerian can round out his offensive game will determine if he becomes a five-star or not.

Ohio State, with Diebler leading the recruitment, has made progress with Okpara. The staff will bring him in for an official visit on June 15-17. He also plans to take officials to Texas, Mississippi and Tennessee this summer, with Kentucky hanging around because assistant coach Orlando Antigua recruited him at Illinois before going to Kentucky. It’s too early to know how the Buckeyes stand with Okpara.

Julian Phillips

6-foot-8, 200 pounds – No. 27 overall, No. 7 PF – Blythewood, South Carolina

The lanky forward's athletic potential has him sitting as a borderline five-star prospect the summer before his senior year. He’s bouncy, an adept finisher at the rim and a strong rebounder, which is why so many schools have had him in their crosshairs. He can play both forward spots and continues to work on expanding his offensive game, both with outside shooting and playmaking and scoring off the bounce.

To win this recruiting battle, Ohio State will need quite the effort from Holtmann and Pedon. Phillips has a slew of southern programs after him, including Florida State, Alabama, Clemson and Wake Forest. Indiana, Kansas and USC are all chasing him, too. He hasn’t revealed which schools he’s planning to visit. If the Buckeyes are to land him, they’ll need to get him to campus.

Shawn Phillips

6-foot-10, 250 pounds – No. 83 overall, No. 12 C – Dayton, Ohio

At his size, Phillips is the classic back-to-the-basket center that has succeeded for decades in this sport. He says he wants to “play like Shaq.” Those types of players are dwindling by the year, but that’s the type of player whichever college lands Phillips will get. He intends to dominate the post on both ends of the court. He’s originally from Dayton, played in Michigan with Bates at Ypsi Prep last season and could go back to Ohio for his senior season, though he hasn’t made any announcements.

Ohio State has been involved for a long time, offering Phillips a scholarship a year-and-a-half ago. He included the Buckeyes in his top-seven three months ago. Illinois, Indiana, Cincinnati and West Virginia are among the top competition for Phillips, who says he’ll visit Florida and North Carolina State soon. 

Tarris Reed

6-foot-10, 230 pounds – No. 94 overall, No. 17 PF – Saint Louis, Missouri

Much like Casey, Reed has some similarities to Liddell. He’s a power forward who attends high school a half-hour drive from where the current Ohio State junior grew up. Reed will likely be a center at the collegiate level given his size and comfortability in the low block.

Ohio State hasn’t ever appeared to be at the forefront for Reed, but it has remained steadfastly in the mix. He mentioned the Buckeyes are one of the nine schools recruiting him the hardest, with Michigan State, Kansas, Michigan, Indiana and Purdue among the others. In other words, it’s a who’s who of Big Ten schools in the mix for Reed, who already has a visit to East Lansing scheduled. It’s unknown yet whether or not he’ll take an official visit to Columbus this month.

Isaac Traudt

6-foot-9, 205 pounds – No. 50 overall, No. 9 PF – Grand Island, Nebraska

Traudt fits the modern game as a floor-stretching forward who can do a little bit of everything offensively. He can create, shoot from the outside and bang on the glass. With that package of skills, he scored 25 points a game and shot 37 percent from behind the arc last season in high school.

Ohio State has recruited Traudt for a while and was named as one of the 10 schools recruiting him the hardest, but it’s not in the best position to secure his commitment at the moment. The power forward has all five of his June visits lined up – Creighton, Nebraska, Virginia, Michigan State and North Carolina – and none are to Columbus. The Buckeyes will need to bring him to campus to have a chance of reeling him in, and quite clearly, the competition is stiff.

Jarace Walker

6-foot-8, 220 pounds – No. 7 overall, No. 1 PF – Bradenton, Florida

The ranking tells an accurate story. Walker is a flat-out beast. He’s physically ready for the next level already with elite athleticism and strength that has made him a top-10 overall prospect. Walker hails from Pennsylvania but now plays for IMG Academy, where he has continued developing while also playing for Team Thrill of the Under Armour Association.

Ohio State, until last week, wasn’t mentioned at all as a contender for Walker. But the Buckeyes offered him a scholarship and are setting up an official visit with him. Because the interest is new, it’s fair to view them as a heavy underdog. But if and when Walker gets on campus? Anything can happen. He has official visits to Auburn and Houston locked in, and others – including North Carolina and Maryland – are in hot pursuit. He has said he's thought about the G League route, too.

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