Ohio State’s best recruiting class under Chris Holtmann didn’t lead to tremendous team success in 2022-23, but the seeds are being sown for the future.
With three of Ohio State’s four top-70 prospects returning from its eighth-ranked national recruiting class in 2022 (Bruce Thornton, Roddy Gayle and Felix Okpara), the Buckeyes have plenty to build upon in the year to come – especially considering the strides they took late last season.
And entering the program straight after that group is a recruiting class that ranks even higher in terms of average prospect evaluation and overall class rank. Ohio State’s four-man 2023 haul is the seventh-best in the nation, per the 247Sports composite rankings, and features three top-50 overall recruits. By comparison, the Buckeyes had only one such signee (Gayle) the previous year.
Minneapolis combo guard Taison Chatman, a Totino-Grace High School product and the No. 1 player in Minnesota, remains Ohio State’s top-rated prospect in the class. The 6-foot-4, 170-pound playmaker is the 39th-ranked recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings and the No. 8 player at his position. Chatman’s mature offensive skill set, calm demeanor on the court and elite shot-making ability make him an intriguing recruit and potential future scoring leader for Ohio State.
|#13||Xavier Booker||Michigan State||C||5|
|#30||Jeremy Fears||Michigan State||PG||4|
|#31||Coen Carr||Michigan State||PF||4|
|#39||Taison Chatman||Ohio State||CG||4|
|#47||Devin Royal||Ohio State||PF||4|
|#48||Scotty Middleton||Ohio State||SF||4|
|#92||George Washington III||Michigan||SG||4|
But Chatman may not even play the largest role among freshman Buckeyes in 2023-24. With Thornton and Gayle both returning after stellar stretches to end this past season, the duo will likely hold down most of the minutes in the Buckeye backcourt. For 47th overall prospect Devin Royal and No. 48 recruit Scotty Middleton, who could both play multiple positions on the wing, there could be opportunities to start right away. Even after adding Minnesota transfer Jamison Battle to the roster this offseason, the Buckeyes have an opening for a bigger guard or another forward in the starting lineup, and both Royal and Middleton could fit that mold.
Saint Marys big man Austin Parks, the lone three-star recruit in Ohio State’s class, could also become an impact player for the Buckeyes down the line, but is less likely to do so as a true freshman. With Okpara and Zed Key both returning, Ohio State has more depth at the five spot than in recent years.
Of course, we won’t know exactly how good Ohio State’s freshman class is until the season gets underway in earnest. But one thing is for certain: Holtmann and company don’t expect to rely on the group quite as much as last year, when Ohio State finished the year starting four of their five true freshmen. Still, significant contributions may be required, and as evidenced by the emergence of Malaki Branham and Brice Sensabaugh the past two seasons, a freshman might just end up being one of the Buckeyes’ top performers.
To quantify just how good Ohio State’s class appears to be on paper before the season, though, we’re taking a look at how the Buckeyes’ incoming freshmen stack up compared to other top prospects and recruiting classes around the Big Ten.
Pending any last-minute surprises across the league, Ohio State’s class ranks second in the Big Ten behind only Michigan State. In fact, only three teams in the country – Kentucky, Duke and reigning national champion UConn – have better classes than the Spartans. Of Michigan State’s four commits, three are among the top 31 prospects in the nation.
The Spartans’ cycle is headlined by five-star big man Xavier Booker, a 6-foot-10, 205-pound center out of Indianapolis that ranks 13th overall in the 247Sports composite rankings. Booker was heavily recruited by the Buckeyes and even had Ohio State on a shortlist of potential schools before ultimately committing to Tom Izzo and company. The Spartans will also bring in four-star point guard Jeremy Fears, the No. 30 prospect and sixth-best player at his position, as well as the No. 31 overall recruit in four-star power forward Coen Carr.
Ohio State may not have a five-star or a top-30 prospect, but the Buckeyes and Spartans are the only programs in the Big Ten that boast three top-50 prospects apiece in the 2023 class. In fact, only three other teams in the conference (Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers) have one top-50 prospect in the incoming class.
The Hoosiers shook up the recruiting landscape a couple weeks ago when five-star forward and No. 8 overall prospect Mackenzie Mgbako, who decommitted from Duke in April, committed to the program. The 6-foot-8 power forward and McDonald’s All-American is the top-rated high school recruit who will enter the Big Ten this season.
Along with Centerville guard Gabe Cupps, who was named Mr. Ohio Basketball as a junior and ranks 91st overall in the 247Sports composite, Mgbako’s commitment gives Indiana the fourth-best class in the league and the 18th-best in the country. In terms of average rating per recruit, though, the Hoosiers are second only to Michigan State in the Big Ten.
Just below Ohio State with the third-rated class in the conference, Maryland had two top-65 talents with four-star small forwards DeShawn Harris-Smith (No. 32) and Jamie Kaiser (No. 63). While there are 15 top-100 prospects entering the league this season, only four teams – Michigan State (three), Ohio State (three), Indiana (two) and Maryland (two) have more than one.
With just two commits in its 2023 class, Rutgers’ cycle ranks eighth in the Big Ten and 45th in the country. But in four-star small forward Gavin Griffiths, the Scarlet Knights bring in the seventh-best recruit in the conference. A West Hartford, Connecticut, product, the 6-foot-7 wing is the 42nd-ranked player in the nation and the eighth-best prospect at his position.
Beyond the five Big Ten programs we’ve already mentioned, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Purdue all have a top-100 prospect in their 2023 stable, but none that rank higher than No. 65. As for Ohio State’s archrival, the Wolverines only have one signee in general, and it’s a player that was initially committed to the Buckeyes. Dayton guard George Washington III, a four-star guard and the No. 92 player in the class, gives Michigan just the 10th-best class in the conference.
Ohio State doesn’t have any of the top five highest-ranked 2023 prospects in the Big Ten, but only Michigan State can rival the Buckeyes in terms of the volume of top-50 talent it will introduce to the college ranks in the forthcoming season.