Taison Chatman’s relationship with the Ohio State coaching staff began as a sophomore at Totino-Grace High School in Minnesota. But it looked like it might end soon thereafter.
The Buckeyes received a commitment from four-star guard prospect George Washington III last November, which was well before Chris Holtmann and company realized Malaki Branham had the potential to go pro after his true freshman season. For those reasons, the scarlet and gray staff told Chatman they weren't looking to add any more guards to its 2023 class.
But in college basketball, things change in a hurry.
Buckeye assistant Jake Diebler got back in contact with the 44th-ranked recruit in the country this past spring, and Chatman said “stuff really started ramping up during the summer.” That was made clear when Chatman, the No. 8 combo guard in the 2023 class, included Ohio State among his top five schools in mid-July.
Still, it wasn’t until a few days after his first visit to Ohio State campus on the first weekend of September – and after Washington’s decommittment – that Chatman made up his mind on a destination. Chatman called Chris Holtmann a couple weeks ago to deliver the news, and he publicly announced his choice on Tuesday.
“I think they just really prioritized me and they showed me they really wanted me and that they could really help me grow. I thought that was big,” Chatman told Eleven Warriors. “I just kept talking to them and I feel like they can help me grow, I feel like it’s the right school, so I thought it was the right choice.”
Chatman’s future is now clear, and the Buckeyes add a third top-50 recruit to their increasingly impressive four-man 2023 class, which is likely complete following its latest addition.
On the Court
A smooth scoring guard that can create his own shot off the dribble or spot up to knock down open 3-pointers, Chatman’s offensive dexterity belies his age. The 6-foot-4, 170-pound backcourt player already has refined skills as a multi-level scorer, but he’s adamant that his passing ability and defensive prowess are also among his strengths.
“I’d say I’m a scorer, but I can also play-make. I can get my teammates open shots whenever it’s needed, I can score whenever it’s needed,” Chatman said. “And I think people don’t really see me as a good defender, but I think I’m a pretty elite defender. So I think I’m a good two-way player.”
Given his size, position and icy demeanor on the court, a comparison with Branham wouldn’t be inappropriate, although Chatman’s long-range stroke and penchant to run point may be beyond Branham’s own at this stage in their development.
Chatman said the Buckeye coaching staff discussed Branham’s trajectory with him during his visit, and that he’ll have a similar opportunity to play through any early struggles when he begins his Ohio State career.
“When I went down there they showed me his development over the year he was there. They said the same thing with him, they said they’re gonna allow me to play through mistakes and they know I’m young when I’m gonna be coming in as a freshman,” Chatman said. “So it’s gonna take some time to get used to and just learn college basketball, really. But they said they’re gonna let me play through mistakes and learn the game.”
While Chatman doesn’t specifically model his game after any one player, he said he constantly watches basketball and tries to implement small things he picks up from players at the highest level. In particular, Chatman enjoys watching NBA stars Paul George, Devin Booker and Damian Lillard.
As far as what he wants to improve before coming to Columbus next summer, Chatman said adding size to his frame is among his primary points of improvement.
“I think just getting stronger overall because I’m gonna be playing in the Big Ten, that’s a physical league,” Chatman said. “So I think just building muscle, getting stronger over the next year, and then obviously when I get there I’ll gain weight more.”
In the Class
While Washington’s decomittment left Ohio State with just three commits in 2023, Chatman has filled the void as the Buckeyes’ fourth pledge, and he’s the highest-rated prospect of the bunch.
Ohio State earned commitments from two top-50 prospects in less than a week at the start of August, when 6-foot-7 forward Devin Royal and 6-foot-6 wing Scotty Middleton both announced their intentions to don the scarlet and gray at the next level. While Middleton was the top-rated recruit of the Buckeyes’ class at the time, Chatman now takes that title as Ohio State continues to level up on the recruiting trail.
Although the Buckeye coaching staff thinks Middleton is capable of handling the ball in the backcourt, Washington’s decommitment left Ohio State without a point guard in the cycle. Chatman may not be a pure floor general, but he fits the bill nonetheless as a guard with enough versatility to play multiple roles on the perimeter.
|C||–||ZED KEY||–||FELIX OKPARA||AUSTIN PARKS|
|PF||–||–||–||KALEN ETZLER (RS)||–|
|SF||JUSTICE SUEING (RS)||–||–||BRICE SENSABAUGH||DEVIN ROYAL|
|PG||ISAAC LIKEKELE (RS)||–||–||BRUCE THORNTON||TAISON CHATMAN|
Should freshman guard Bruce Thornton remain with the program after his first year, the Buckeyes could have plenty of stability at the position moving forward regardless.
Despite the excitement surrounding the recruitment of four-star guard Bronny James, the son of LeBron James (who was also at the Notre Dame game), a source told Eleven Warriors that Chatman is likely to be the final high school recruit in Ohio State’s 2023 class. The group now ranks fifth in the country and No. 2 in the Big Ten, behind only Michigan State.
“The class last year that Coach Holtmann got was pretty good, and the ‘23 class, our class is pretty good,” Chatman said. “So if you combine those two next year, I feel like we’ll definitely be a good team and we’ll be pretty scary next year.”
Chatman may be the newest face in Ohio State’s 2023 class, but he’s plenty familiar with his future teammates thanks to the AAU circuit and national camp scene through the spring and summer.
Asked if Chatman had pre-existing relationships with Middleton, Royal or three-star center Austin Parks, Chatman said “we’ve all seen each other at camps.” In fact, Chatman was supposed to room with Royal at the Pangos All-American Camp in Las Vegas in June, but Chatman ended up getting sick and was unable to attend.
All the commits in Ohio State’s 2023 class, and their families, came together for the Buckeye football program’s season opener against Notre Dame on Sept. 3, which was a valuable experience for Chatman.
“When I went on my visit, that was the first time all the commits’ families met each other, so we got to be a part of that,” Chatman said. “We met all their families, hung out with the players at coach’s house, we went to Topgolf and we just really got to know each other hanging out.”
One player in particular worked the hardest to encourage Chatman to join the class.
“I’d say all of them really, but the main one that was texting me after the visit and kind of second-hand recruiting me was Dev,” Chatman said.
Royal’s recruiting efforts paid off after Chatman’s first-ever trip to Columbus, and one was all it took for Chatman to make up his mind.
Chatman said the enthusiasm of the Buckeye fans was the most impressive thing about his OSU visit.
“I’d say for athletes, the fanbase is crazy. They don’t have any (pro) sports teams, so it’s really just Ohio State athletics,” Chatman said. “I think the fan base they have is good, they show a lot of love around campus and around the state.”