Scarlet and gray dominoes have been falling left, right and center in the past few weeks as an Ohio State roster ravaged by offseason turnover continues to take shape.
Meechie Johnson will not make it to a second full season with Ohio State, as the Cleveland native entered the transfer portal on April 12 and committed to South Carolina Monday, but the Buckeyes learned Friday that Seth Towns will return for a seventh season of college basketball to help bolster the team’s frontcourt depth. Of course, neither development is even the latest for Ohio State, which subsequently lost out on one transfer guard (Kansas State transfer Nijel Pack) and earned the commitment of another (West Virginia transfer Sean McNeil) on the very same weekend.
Towns’ return didn’t immediately address the concerns that had been bubbling up about the Buckeye backcourt, which has sustained heavy blows – Johnson’s departure being the latest – as the Ohio State roster continues to be rearranged. The addition of one highly coveted transfer prospect in particular could have been the answer to many of the Buckeyes’ problems at guard, but on Saturday, Ohio State learned that option was off the table.
Pack, who averaged 17.4 points per game and shot 43.6 percent from three as an All-Big 12 selection a year ago, appeared to be strongly considering the Buckeye program, given that Columbus was his final destination before announcing he had come to a decision about his landing spot. But Pack picked Miami over the Buckeyes, Purdue and a number of other programs that were in hot pursuit of the 6-foot standout.
With Ohio State losing three grad transfers at guard (Jamari Wheeler, Cedric Russell and Jimmy Sotos), its second-leading scorer in Malaki Branham – presumably – and its foremost 3-point shooting specialist in Justin Ahrens, Pack might just have been the perfect piece at point guard to fill several needs at once.
McNeil might not be a pure point guard or true floor general, per sé, but the 6-foot-3, 210-pound athlete can still handle the ball enough to give Bruce Thornton – the top-rated talent (and No. 42 overall) prospect in Ohio State’s 2023 recruiting class – a hand as perhaps the only textbook point guard on the team next year. McNeil can also score the ball at a rock-solid clip, averaging 12.2 points per game in each of the past two seasons and shooting the three-ball at a career 36.8 percent in three seasons on the floor with the Mountaineers.
Perhaps Holtmann and company have faith in Justice Sueing’s ability to play the point, if healthy and called upon to do so in 2022-23. The sixth-year senior opted to use his additional year of eligibility and return to the Buckeye program on April 7, and despite lingering questions about his health after missing all but two games with an abdominal injury this past year, he’ll be expected to lead Ohio State in more ways than one next year.
Holtmann seemed to like Sueing’s ability to run the point at 6-foot-7 in 2020-21, during a stretch in which CJ Walker was out with injury, and it seemed as though the Buckeye head coach planned to put the ball in Sueing’s hands as an offensive playmaker late in games last year until injuries derailed the Hawaii native’s fifth year.
Despite Wright State transfer guard Tanner Holden’s length as a 6-foot-6 wing, the Buckeye coaching staff could also use its first transfer portal addition of the offseason as an occasional primary ballhandler, if need be, even if his average of 20.1 points per game last season suggests that the Ohio native is more of scorer than he is a true facilitator on offense.
With Towns coming back and McNeil on the team, and assuming Malaki Branham and Harrison Hookfin do not return for the Buckeyes next season, Ohio State will only have one more scholarship spot open to bring in another transfer portal prospect. For the sake of the Buckeyes’ chances to improve upon their up-and-down, injury-stricken 2021-22 campaign, that final addition had better be one that can contribute in a big way for Ohio State next season.
If you were to take a look at the newest names Ohio State has reportedly reached out to in the portal, one might think that the Buckeyes were still trying to sign another player to help boost the backcourt.
Stockrisers reported Monday that Ohio State has been in contact with 6-foot-2 Wichita State transfer guard Craig Porter Jr., while 247Sports reported Friday that the Buckeyes have been in contact with fellow Wichita State guard Ricky Council IV – a 6-foot-5 wing. On Monday, a CBS Sports report also placed Ohio State in the mix for Texas transfer Courtney Ramey, a 6-foot-3 veteran guard with 106 starts under his belt.
Three days into the portal, Wichita Stare transfer Craig Porter Jr. has heard from Ohio State, Xavier, Kansas State, Clemson, Butler, Seton Hall, Purdue, Tulane, Nevada, George Mason, he told @Stockrisers.— Jake (@jakeweingarten) April 25, 2022
7.3 points, 4.9 boards, 3.6 assists, 1.7 steals, and one block.
Texas transfer Courtney Ramey is receiving interest from the following programs, per his father:— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 25, 2022
San Diego State
However, all those names are now likely on the backburner as a source told Eleven Warriors that Ohio State will now look to add a bit more size to its lineup with a transfer prospect that could potentially play the four in the absence of Kyle Young and E.J. Liddell next season. The multi-positional versatility of Sueing, Holden and Towns, not to mention returning wing Eugene Brown, will help in that department, but Ohio State still needs another player with more size to pair with Zed Key and incoming freshman Felix Okpara.
Ohio State has been on a shortlist of potential landing spots for 6-foot-11 NC State transfer big Manny Bates for a number of weeks, and on Monday, 247Sports reported that the Buckeyes have reached out to DePaul transfer forward David Jones. While Jones averaged 14.5 points and 7.4 boards a year ago, the 6-foot-6 wing may be a bit undersized for what the Buckeyes have in mind to fill their final roster spot.
NC State transfer Manny Bates tells me that he's receiving interest from the following programs:— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 11, 2022
DePaul transfer David Jones has received interest from Oregon, Ohio State, Maryland, Illinois and West Virginia amongst many others, a source told @247SportsPortal.— Travis Branham (@TravisBranham_) April 25, 2022
Offseason developments continue to take place as April enters its final week, and despite the recent dominoes that have fallen, Ohio State’s roster still isn’t quite complete. That could change at any point over the next several weeks – or months – as the Buckeyes pursue several of the top transfers remaining in the portal, but it’s clear that one big piece still eludes them at the moment, and likely one that possesses more size than the two newest additions to the team so far this offseason.