Potential Targets Ohio State Basketball Could Pursue To Complete Its 2020-21 Roster

By Colin Hass-Hill on March 20, 2020 at 8:35 am
Jamarius Burton
Potential Ohio State transfer target Jamarius Burton. (Photo: Peter G. Aiken – USA TODAY Sports)

The college basketball season ended prematurely. The country's damn near on lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19. Nobody in Ohio can go to school, and an ever-increasing list of businesses is having employees work from home.

None of that, though, can stop college hoops roster movement. Welcome to the offseason.

DJ Carton became the first piece to shift on Thursday when he announced his entrance into the transfer portal. The decision dropped Ohio State, which was previously one over the limit, down to the 13-scholarship mark for the 2020-21 season. However, that was only the first move.

Junior big man Kaleb Wesson has an upcoming decision to make about whether to leave for the NBA. Freshman forward Alonzo Gaffney was away from the team for the final four games of the season. In the modern age of college basketball, unexpected transfers can happen, too.

Given that, Ohio State is expected to make a couple additions to its 2020-21 roster – to go along with signees Eugene Brown and Zed Key – in the near future. We take a look at who a few of the Buckeyes' options could be.

Seth Towns, Harvard (6-foot-7, 215 pounds)

Immediately Eligible, Two Years Of Eligibility

So much about Towns-to-Ohio State makes sense.

He's a Columbus native who eschewed the Buckeyes, along with a number of other schools, out of high school to attend Harvard, where he starred for two seasons before a knee injury sidelined him for the past two years. Expected to return to full health this summer, Towns now has a shot to end his career playing for Ohio State, which hopes to add the 2017-18 Ivy League Player of the Year, who averaged 16 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in his most recent healthy season.

Towns tweeted on Monday that he planned to make a decision this week. Ohio State, Maryland, Syracuse, Virginia, Michigan and Kansas were viewed as the finalists at the time. Duke, however, contacted him earlier this week, and on Thursday it became a two-team race between Ohio State and the Blue Devils.

The Buckeyes are still viewed as the frontrunner, even with Duke in the picture. Expect a decision soon.

Jamarius Burton, Wichita State (6-foot-4, 200 pounds)

Must Sit Out 2020-21, Two Years Of Eligibility

In the past, Chris Holtmann has expressed an interest in having one or two players sit out each season. Thirteen healthy and eligible players is too many, he believes, to keep happy. In response, he's added a a couple sit-one year, play-two years transfers in recent years.

Last year, Justice Sueing sat out after transferring from Cal. The year before, CJ Walker sat out after a transfer from Florida State.

If Holtmann opts to go the route of a transfer who has to sit out a season, Burton could become an option. Ohio State, along with a host of other schools, has already reached out to him. 

Burton, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, started 52 of 67 games over the past two years. As a sophomore in an increased role last season, he averaged 10.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 27.1 minutes per game while shooting 44 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from behind the 3-point line. His shooting improved immensely between his freshman and sophomore seasons, with both his percentages on 2-point jumpers (30.3 to 41.1) and 3-point shots (26.3 to 38.1) increasing drastically.

He's rated by ESPN's Jeff Borzello as the fifth-best transfer candidate who's expected to have to sit out next season before becoming eligible for the 2021-22 season.

Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac (6-foot-1, 175 pounds)

Immediately Eligible, One Year Of Eligibility

The absence created by Carton's transfer opens up an immediate hole at point guard that Holtmann might look to fill via transfer.

With Walker, Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington Jr. already on the roster as upperclassmen, it's not as though Ohio State has a clear starting spot to sell to potential targets. However, it could look to add a guard who can play 20-25 minutes off the bench next season. 

Kelly, a graduate transfer from Quinnipiac who Ohio State has been in contact with, could be in that mold.

The Cheshire, Connecticut, native became a stalwart for the Bobcats, starting 86 of 89 games the past three years while averaging at least 11 points and four assists per game every season. As a junior, Kelly earned second-team All-MAAC honors for recording 16.7 points, 4.5 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 34.3 minutes per game. Over his career, he shot 41.8 percent from the field, 38.7 percent from behind the arc and 84.1 percent from the free-throw line.

He's ranked as the seventh-best graduate transfer by ESPN.

Bryce Aiken, Harvard (6-foot, 175 pounds)

Immediately Eligible, One Year of Eligibility

From the outside, Aiken might make a lot of sense.

Ranked by ESPN as the No. 2 graduate transfer available on the transfer market, he was a first-team All-Ivy League selection as a junior due to per-game averages of 22.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists. A December foot injury ended his senior year unexpectedly, leading to his transfer. Hypothetically, Aiken could step in as a scoring guard to fill the void created by Carton's transfer.

But even though he was teammates with Towns at Harvard, he's not expected to end up at Ohio State. Aiken will likely go somewhere without a trio of upperclassmen at guard who each played at least 25 minutes per game last season. 

Patrick Tapé, Columbia (6-foot-10, 220 pounds)

Immediately Eligible, One Year Of Eligibility

In all likelihood, Kaleb Wesson will be off to the NBA this offseason. If that happens, most expect Ohio State to go all-in on playing small with Kyle Young and E.J. Liddell as the starting frontcourt. However, especially if someone else decides to transfer, Holtmann's staff might take a look at the available big men. 

After not visiting Ohio State this spring as expected, Tapé seemed likely to head elsewhere. The two sides have since re-engaged discussions, though. 

Tapé sat out this past season with the intention of transferring. As a junior in 2018-19, he averaged 11.3 points and 5.9 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per game. Late in the season, he found a groove, recording at least 14 points in each of the final six games. The big man converted on 66.7 percent of his shot attempts. Within conference games, he ranked first in the Ivy League with a block rate of 8.8 percent.

Tapé's the ninth-ranked graduate transfer available, per ESPN.

Mattias Markusson, Loyola Marymount (7-foot-3, 261 pounds)

Immediately Eligible, One Year Of Eligibility

No, that's not a typo. Yes, he's 7-foot-3.

In the same vein as Tapé, Markusson might be a one-year stopgap between Kaleb Wesson leaving for the NBA and the younger big men taking over. Ohio State is one of the schools that has been in contact with him.

Markusson, as a junior in 2018-19, averaged 10.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 25.6 minutes per game as a starter for Loyola Marymount. He shot 58.6 percent from the field and 76.1 percent from the line.

He redshirted last season and has one more year to play. ESPN ranked him as the 16th-best graduate transfer.

Carter Whitt (6-foot-3, 170 pounds)

High Schooler

So far, we've focused only on transfer candidates.

Hypothetically, though, Ohio State could find itself in the market for someone else to join Key and Brown in its 2020 recruiting class. Such an idea brings us to Carter Whitt, a four-star point guard from Raleigh, North Carolina.

As of Thursday, Whitt was the only high school prospect that Ohio State was still regularly contacting, a source told Eleven Warriors. It seems more likely that the Buckeyes go after players via transfer, but Whitt – nor any other high schooler who catches the coaching staff's eye – can't be ruled out completely.

Whitt remains in the 2021 class, but he has heavily weighed the possibility of reclassifying to 2020. The playmaking guard is currently ranked as the nation's No. 74 overall prospect and the No. 11 point guard. 

Somebody Else

This article, by any means, isn't an exhaustive account of who to look out for as Ohio State explores its options.

Considering Carton's transfer came on Thursday, it's still early. Things can – and will – change. Some players will put themselves in the transfer portal, and others will go elsewhere. As the college hoops globe spins, Ohio State's right in the middle of it all.

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