Scotty Middleton Says “Family” Feel at Ohio State Stands Out As 2023 Small Forward Includes Buckeyes in Top Five

By Griffin Strom on April 27, 2022 at 8:35 am
Scotty Middleton, Jake Diebler

The throughline in Scotty Middleton’s top-five list is difficult to discern.

Between Ohio State, Kansas, Seton Hall, Texas A&M and UConn, there are five different states represented, four different conferences and a wide range of recent success; one of those teams won this past season’s national championship, one missed the NCAA Tournament altogether and the other three were all eliminated on the opening weekend.

But for any of those five programs, landing the four-star small forward and No. 52 overall prospect in the class of 2023 would be a significant boost in the coming recruiting cycle. For the Buckeyes, the 6-foot-7 wing might just be the precise piece they’re looking for to place beside the point guard and center they already have commitments from in the class.

“They just tell me they like my versatility and how I can play the one through three,” Middleton told Eleven Warriors Friday. “So I don’t really have like a position (I have) to play at Ohio State if I go there, or any school I go to.”

That versatility was on clear display over the weekend at the second session of the Nike EYBL circuit in Indianapolis, where Middleton – who plays high school hoops for Sunrise Christian in Wichita, Kansas – competed for the Brad Beal Elite AAU program.

The team didn’t have an impressive showing in general, going 0-4 across three days of competition, but Middleton showed some flashes of brilliance. Despite scoring just six combined points in two performances on Saturday, the rangy wing scored 16 points on 50 percent shooting in his team’s final contest on Sunday and also tallied double digits in his first appearance on Friday.

Ohio State assistant coach Jake Diebler was on hand to watch Middleton’s performance on Friday, and even if he saw a shaky shooting night from the forward (4-for-16), there was plenty to be excited about as well. Middleton made plays defensively, blocking shots on the interior and guarding all the way out to the 3-point line against smaller opposing guards. On offense, Middleton proved capable of stretching the floor from three, cleaning up the offensive glass and even facilitating offense for others.

Ohio State’s penchant for long wings that can play multiple positions hasn’t exactly been a secret under Chris Holtmann over the last several seasons.

Perhaps no direct comparison to any of these players is quite accurate, but on the prospective 2022-23 Buckeye roster alone, 6-foot-7 forward Justice Sueing could play anywhere from point guard to power forward depending on the lineup. 6-foot-6 wing Tanner Holden could play anywhere from one through three, and Eugene Brown and Seth Towns possessing the ability to play anywhere from the two to the four.

Middleton would have only seen one of those players on the practice floor when he visited Ohio State in early March, when Sueing and Towns were injured and Holden was still at Wright State, but he appears to fit a similar mold.

If Middleton returns for another visit to Columbus, he said it would probably be in the fall, although he said he already has a good sense for what makes the Buckeye program stand out when compared to others.

“Ohio State, my visit was really good. Coach (Jake) Diebler, Coach Holtmann, they do a great job with their players development-wise, player-wise, too,” Middleton said. “The campus is really good, the really thing I put them on the list for is probably because the family in between the players. The old players that played there, during the summer the guys come back, they can play runs with the players, teach the players, stuff like that.”

The camaraderie between Buckeyes past and present has impressed Middleton, who figures to be a fan of Ohio State’s “pro week,” which began last year and included former Buckeye stars and NBA players D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop, Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger, among others, returning to Columbus to practice with the current team.

Still, Middleton said all five of his top schools are “pretty even” as things stand. Middleton said he doesn’t have a personal relationship with either four-star guard George Washington III or three-star center Austin Parks, the first two commits in Ohio State’s 2023 class. Middleton and the pair of Buckeye commits do follow each other on social media, though.

Middleton wasn’t satisfied with his performance at the Nike EYBL event, at least not after his first game with Brad Beal Elite – a 15-point loss to Meanstreets – and said improving his ballhandling and increasing his paint touches are both points of emphasis for him this offseason.

“I think I played all right (in the first EYBL game), gotta be more dominant,” Middleton said. “Gotta rebound more, just do more for the team.”

Middleton managed to improve throughout the course of the tournament alone, saving his best performance for last on Sunday, and should the high school junior continue on that trajectory this spring and summer, he’ll only see his stock rise ahead of his senior year – and will continue to be one of Ohio State’s top recruiting targets.

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