To Roddy Gayle, it just made sense. He didn’t feel like waiting anymore.
At some point last week, the four-star 2022 shooting guard from Youngstown, New York, gave the word to Ohio State assistant coach Jake Diebler: “Hey, I'm ready to be a Buckeye.” Diebler soon roped head coach Chris Holtmann into the call, and he told the entire coaching staff of his decision to play for their school the following day.
On Friday evening in a ceremony at Lewiston Porter Senior High School, Gayle made it official by announcing his commitment to play college basketball for Ohio State over Syracuse, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Marquette and Georgetown.
The Gayle File
- Class: 2022
- Size: 6-foot-5, 200 pounds
- Pos: SG
- School: Lewiston Porter Senior (Youngstown, NY)
- Composite Rating: ★★★★
- Composite Rank: #76 overall, #7 shooting guard
“Were they surprised? They were surprised a lot, especially with how early it is,” Gayle told Eleven Warriors. “I feel like that's why they were very excited. But I told you, me and coach Diebler are literally like buddies now.”
He joins Bowen Hardman, a three-star shooting guard from Cincinnati, as the second member of the Buckeyes’ 2022 class. His physical upside at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, versatility that could allow him to play three positions (point guard, shooting guard and small forward), feel for the game and athleticism attracted Ohio State to him initially with a scholarship offer extended in April and a lengthy chase led by Holtmann and Diebler ever since.
But Gayle, the nation’s 76th-ranked overall recruit and No. 1 prospect from New York in his class, didn’t have to make a decision right now if he didn’t feel comfortable. He could have prolonged the process, taken his time, continued to build relationships and hoped for the NCAA to begin allowing visits again in the near future. After all, his entire recruitment has taken place virtually since March when the in-person evaluations and campus visits got banned for an undetermined amount of time.
Gayle, however, didn’t feel like he’d need any more time.
“Who's counting on when we're going to be allowed to be able to get on campus? I've already been to Ohio State, so I already know what everything's like, so I don't really have nothing to worry about,” Gayle said. “I've been to Ohio State, so I've been to a game actually, so I know what kind of offense they run, what the atmosphere feels like inside and the relationship I have with the staff and stuff.
“I just feel like it was a no-brainer for me.”
Matt Bradshaw, his basketball coach at Lewiston Porter Senior, called Gayle’s commitment to Ohio State a “match made in heaven.”
“It's a perfect marriage,” he said.
|NAME||POSITION||OVERALL RANKING||POSITION RANKING||DATE OF COMMITMENT|
|BOWEN HARDMAN||SG||No. 149||No. 23||MAY 13, 2020|
|RODDY GAYLE||SG||No. 76||No. 7||NOV. 13, 2020|
The first – and only time – Gayle piled into a car for a visit to Columbus happened earlier this year. Nobody had any inkling it would be one of the final trips he’d make to colleges of the year due to an impending pandemic. Yet without it, his commitment likely would not have taken place this fall.
In early March, Bradshaw took Gayle to Ohio State – along with Syracuse and Wake Forest – for an unofficial visit. They happened to visit at an optimal time for the Buckeyes, who beat Michigan, 77-63, in front of a sellout crowd. To Gayle, it was unequivocally the “loudest place I've ever been.”
That visit “made a presence on him when he left,” per Bradshaw, and it also showed him it was close enough for his mom and dad to make the drive without much issue.
“My parents have never missed any of my games, so with Ohio State being less than five hours, it's nothing for them to pack the car up and drive here,” Gayle said. “It's very special for me, whether it's a bad game or a big game, I can look in the crowd and see my family over there.”
For a while, Gayle had a return visit to Ohio State planned for Jan. 1 on his calendar. He and the Buckeyes coaches hoped the NCAA would allow visits beginning on New Year's Day. Recently, though, they told him they expect visits to continue to remain off-limits until at least April.
Still, that wasn’t much of a setback for Gayle and the people supporting him – who Bradshaw collectively calls “Team Gayle” – including his parents, high school coach and coaches from his WeR1 and New York Renaissance basketball programs. The Buckeyes’ pursuit of him was as constant as Bradshaw’s once was with them.
The high school head coach with three decades of experience used to hammer Diebler’s email inbox with film of Gayle, who had told him he was interested in the Buckeyes.
“Diebler was probably wondering every time he'd go to his email inbox, ‘God, who's this damn coach Bradshaw? Coach Bradshaw. Who the hell is this guy?’” Bradshaw said.
Eventually, Diebler started returning the favor.
Over the summer, the second-year assistant coach got into a routine of calling Gayle every day at around 4 p.m. Once his junior year started, Diebler realized Gayle takes a nap every day when he gets home, so he started waiting until 6 or 7 p.m. to dial him up. As Gayle put it, Diebler “never misses a beat.”
Every time Gayle played a game or had something else going on, Diebler would ask about it. They discussed everything from basketball to weekend plans to his parents and just about everything else. Diebler introduced Gayle to his kids, called him to tell when he bought a Tesla with self-driving capability – Gayle’s reaction: “What? You must be balling out there” – and told him about his wife’s cookie business and how she didn’t allow him to eat any of them.
“Diebler called every day. Holtmann called every other day,” Gayle said. “So it's like, they really want me. That's how I felt. They really want me to be at their school and they think I can make a difference. That's how I felt. Not even me that they called. They called my dad. They called my mom. Called all my AAU coaches, whether it was Rens or WeR1. And they called people that I was close with. If they're going through that much to try to get me up to school, then they really want me.
“So, I feel like that's where I need to be.”