The thought of possibly sitting in an airplane making his scheduled Columbus-to-Georgia flight on Sunday while not yet committed caused the mind of four-star wing Eugene Brown III to race.
Though he says he didn’t do much research before his official visit to Ohio State this weekend, he understood the program’s situation in the 2020 recruiting cycle. With Andre Wesson graduating after this season, the Buckeyes currently have a single scholarship available for his class. Ultimately, Ohio State might end up with two prospects in the class, but even if that happens, it would not sign more than one guard or wing.
As the Buckeyes continued their pursuit of Brown, they also spent time chasing other players who could fill the spot on the wing, including a trio of four-star recruits: Moses Moody, Kerwin Walton and Puff Johnson. Moody already took an official visit a could weeks ago, and the others planned to follow suit in the coming weeks. Those players lingered in Brown’s mind during the weekend, and he realized he liked Ohio State enough that he couldn’t afford to have one of them take his spot in the team’s 2020 class.
“If I get on this plane – and you can't really talk to anybody on a plane – if I get on this plane and someone calls in to commit, there's no way of them talking to me while I'm on that hour-and-10-minute flight,” Brown told Eleven Warriors on Monday night. “I wasn't going to let that opportunity slip away.”
On Sunday, Brown pulled the trigger, telling Chris Holtmann he was committing before announcing his decision to the public at noon on Monday.
The Decatur, Georgia, native had already spent more than 48 hours in Columbus by the time he and his family met with Holtmann on Sunday. Both when he hung out with the players on Friday and Saturday nights and when he watched the team practice the day prior, he got a feeling that he might end up committing by the end of the weekend. Even still, he says he didn’t walk into Holtmann’s office at the Schottenstein Center on Sunday morning with the idea he’d walk out shortly after as a future Buckeye.
“That 30-minute meeting, it just brought everything together,” Brown said.
What began as a normal conversation soon turned into a successful closing pitch.
Holtmann told Brown, who's ranked No. 112 overall in the 2020 class, how much of a priority he had become for him and his coaching staff, emphasizing the need they have for him. He brought up Andre Wesson, the senior small forward he’d replace on the roster, and noted that Brown could potentially be in line for early playing time with him graduating after this upcoming season.
“With him leaving this year and me coming in next year, it's a great opportunity for me to play,” Brown said. “I'm basically a perfect fit – that's what he was talking about.”
Holtmann extolled Brown’s family and personal values, and the head coach expressed confidence in his ability to fit in with the rest of the players on the team. Brown’s maturity had become an attraction to Ohio State, which valued his 4.0 GPA and 1100 SAT score.
“It is wild. It's crazy. Never been to Ohio, didn't really do much research on Ohio State and it just happened.”– Eugene Brown III
All the while, the thought of potentially committing percolated in Brown’s mind.
“While he's talking, I'm just sitting there thinking to myself, like I'm just staring off and just thinking to myself, like, 'Is this what I want to do?' and everything,” Brown said. “I'm looking at my parents. They weren't really looking at me; they were looking at coach talking. But I'm looking at them, looking at how focused and interested they are. And with all that going on, I just started thinking back and all that stuff.”
Minutes later and not too long before Brown's flight back to Georgia took off, the unexpected commitment happened.
Prior to the decision, his plan was simple: take official visits to Louisville, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Texas A&M before choosing between those four schools, along with Ohio State and Butler, in late October. Plans, of course, changed this weekend.
Brown won’t take any other official visits. He called the coaches of his other five finalists on Sunday to tell them he will attend Ohio State.
Everything, as it so often does in recruiting, came back to relationships.
Holtmann extended an offer to Brown soon after seeing him play in June, and assistant coach Jake Diebler began leading the pursuit of him. In the past three months, Ohio State’s coaches build a strong enough bond to get him to include the team in his top-six schools two months after offering him a scholarship, then to get him to commit before taking his four other scheduled official visits this fall.
Though Brown never had a list of specific questions he needed answered, he had a few items he wanted to get “checked off,” which happened during an in-home visit from the entire coaching staff last week and his official visit this weekend. Most of his considerations centered around whether he can trust the coaches to develop him into the player he wants to become.
“When the coaches came on a home visit, certain things about them, it just showed that I could trust their word,” Brown said. “They weren't backing down from any questions we had. They were being completely honest about everything – blatantly honest, really. That's on the home visit. On the official visit, whenever we would talk basketball and everything, they were keeping everything 100 percent. There was no fluff in anything they were talking about, and you could just sense the genuineness from them.”
Ohio State, he appreciated, showed a willingness to talk about his entire game.
The coaches said they like his shooting, length, defense and athleticism, and they noted pick-and-roll situations and finishing opportunities as areas to improve. During both the in-home visit and the official visit, they didn’t try to hide those thoughts from Brown.
“They talked about my strengths, and they showed some of my weaknesses,” Brown said. “I've never seen that. I've never seen a college pull up video of things that I'm doing bad and try to make it seem like it's going to be good for them. The way they were handling everything was honestly.”
By the end of Sunday’s meeting with Holtmann, Brown considered himself sold on Ohio State.
Shortly after, he hopped on a flight back to Georgia with big dreams about what could be in store for him in Columbus. Brown thinks Ohio State might be able to win a national title his freshman year, and he hopes to make it to the NBA, possibly as early as after his sophomore season.
Maybe that happens. Maybe it doesn’t.
Or maybe it's not even worth trying to predict; he didn't forecast himself committing to Ohio State on his first-ever trip to the Buckeye State.
“It is wild. It's crazy,” Brown said. “Never been to Ohio, didn't really do much research on Ohio State and it just happened.”