Eugene Brown, Zed Key Sign National Letters of Intent with Ohio State

By Colin Hass-Hill on November 15, 2019 at 4:15 pm
Zed Key

Ohio State inked a pair of early signees this week.

Four-star wing Eugene Brown III and three-star power forward Zed Key both signed National Letters of Intent to play basketball for the Buckeyes. Key signed on Wednesday, the first day players in his class could make it official, and Brown sent in his letter on Friday. Both held signing ceremonies as their respective high schools.

Brown and Key will be the only two 2020 prospects who will sign with Ohio State during the Early Signing Period. 

"We are just really excited about the addition of those two young men," Chris Holtmann said on Friday afternoon. "Both guys have a unique ability to impact the way we want to play. They both fit a need. Eugene, with his versatility and ability to play kind of multiple positions on the perimeter in that bigger wing that we've been looking for is going to really be important. And Zed with his physicality, his length, his frame. I think he's just scratching the surface on his ability to continue to get better. And his ability to score with his back to the basket, which is always unique in our game today."

Brown was the first to commit to Ohio State in his class, pulling the trigger on Sept. 16.

As a prospect playing for Southwest DeKalb High School in Georgia, Brown had plenty of regional schools chasing him. His top six consisted of Louisville, Georgia, Butler, Georgia Tech and Texas A&M, along with the Buckeyes. Brown, the No. 112 overall prospect in his class, planned to take official visits to five schools before committing. After his visit to Columbus, though, he canceled the remaining four trips and committed.

Key, the No. 162 overall prospect and 31st-ranked power forward, committed to Ohio State on Sept. 22, joined Brown in what became a two-person 2020 class.

The big man from Glen Head, New York, blew up on the recruiting trail in June when he shined in front of coaches, including Holtmann and his assistants, at the NBPA Top 100 camp. The following week, he earned more than one scholarship offer per day, picking up one from the Buckeyes. Key announced his decision to commit to Ohio State two weeks after taking his official visit to Columbus.

"Both guys fit our needs, how we want to play, the kind of people they are, the culture of our program, the kind of families they come from," Holtmann said. "Just like the previously people we recruited in the previous class, we feel strongly about that. We felt like we needed an additional wing/guard and interior guy and potentially a back-to-the-basket scorer. Obviously we're going to lose Kaleb (Wesson) at some point. So they just really fit our needs and what we were looking for."

By receiving Letters of Intent from Key and Brown, Ohio State has officially "oversigned." It has one senior – Andre Wesson – on its roster, meaning attrition via transfer or professionalization must happen by at least one player currently on the roster who's not a senior.

Holtmann, though he said he hasn't ever been in this situation before, doesn't feel concerned about the situation.

"I don't think honestly we were in a situation where we found ones that we really liked enough to do that," Holtmann said. "In this case, we did. That'll all take care of itself. I've got no uncertainties about that."

The possibility of Kaleb Wesson heading to the NBA after this season exists, which could put Ohio State at or below the scholarship limit. As a junior, he has another year of eligibility after this season. However, he playing in the NBA has been a stated goal of his for a while, and he already went through the pre-draft process in the spring before ultimately deciding to remain in school for a third season.

The Buckeyes signing Key somewhat guards against the impact to the frontcourt of Wesson going to the NBA, should he take that route.

"It was a factor, for sure, because you're always trying to prepare for the unknown," Holtmann said. "But obviously that'll be something that we'll – we didn't do it just because of that reason by any stretch, because Kaleb's certainly going to have options at the end of the year, and he and his family will sit down and determine what's best for him and his future and his career. That's months away. And obviously he's a huge part of our program. I think it's something you consider, but by no means was that exclusively the reason."

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