Meechie Johnson, Jaedon LeDee Among Former Ohio State Hoopers Having Career Years Elsewhere

By Andy Anders on February 9, 2024 at 1:05 pm
Meechie Johnson
Jeff Blake – USA TODAY Sports

There's a steady amount of roster turnover year in and year out in modern-day collegiate athletics. That's the nature of the transfer portal.

Ohio State men’s basketball has seen no shortage of flux. While picking up plenty of transfer pieces on its own during the Chris Holtmann era, a similar number of players have left the program to pursue opportunities at other schools.

Six hoopers who once wore scarlet and gray are scattered elsewhere across college basketball. All of them are seeing better numbers than they ever saw in Columbus, even if some of them are boosted by being at mid-major programs playing mid-major competition.

As the Buckeyes have struggled to losses in eight of their last nine games, almost completely out of the NCAA Tournament picture at 13-10 on the season and 3-9 in Big Ten play, one has to wonder if one or more of the players Ohio State lost previously could have been of assistance. Or at least, what their careers would have looked like if they had stayed in Columbus.

South Carolina guard Meechie Johnson and San Diego State forward Jaedon LeDee are the biggest examples of players flourishing after leaving Chris Holtmann’s program, but others have at least developed from bench warmers to role players.

Meechie Johnson

Meechie Johnson Jr. Year-by-Year Stats
2020-21 OHIO STATE 5.8 1.2 .389 .500 0.5 0.2 0.2 0.1
2021-22 OHIO STATE 17.7 4.4 .308 .321 1.5 1.2 0.7 0.1
2022-23 SOUTH CAROLINA 33.3 12.7 .361 .327 3.7 3.6 0.7 0.0
2023-24 SOUTH CAROLINA 29.0 14.5 .405 .344 4.2 3.0 0.9 0.1

Johnson’s two-year Ohio State career proved disappointing for both player and team outside of perhaps one shot.

Despite never establishing a regular spot for himself, Johnson knocked down a game-winning three in the final seconds of the Buckeyes’ contest with No. 21 Seton Hall early in the 2021-22 season.

That year, his last in Columbus, Johnson averaged 4.4 points and 1.2 assists in 17.7 minutes per game.

The next year, his first in Columbia, South Carolina, Johnson averaged 12.7 points and 3.6 assists in 33.3 minutes per game. Johnson led the Gamecocks in assists and was second in points that season, albeit for a lowly 11-21 squad.

In 2023-24, South Carolina boasts a 20-3 record and stands atop the SEC with an 8-2 mark in conference play. Johnson leads the team in scoring and is second in dimes, with 14.5 points and three assists per game.

Those 14.5 points are more per game than every Buckeye except Bruce Thornton this season, and while Ohio State has lost five consecutive games, South Carolina only continues getting hotter with six consecutive wins. Two of those victories are over then-No. 6 Kentucky and then-No. 5 Tennessee, the latter win coming on the road, where OSU has dropped 15 consecutive contests.

If Johnson were still at Ohio State, he’d likely be a stalwart starter at shooting guard to pair with Thornton, allowing Roddy Gayle Jr. to come off the bench. Given the lack of production from the Buckeyes’ backcourt depth, suddenly the team would have a huge boost to its second wave of scorers.

Jaedon LeDee

Jaedon LeDee Year-by-Year Stats
2018-19 OHIO STATE 6.6 3.0 .383 .000 1.7 0.2 0.1 0.2
2019-20 TCU 11.7 2.7 .523 .000 2.9 0.1 0.4 0.4
2021-22 TCU 15.2 5.8 .538 .000 3.9 0.3 0.3 0.1
2022-23 SAN DIEGO STATE 18.1 7.9 .489 .000 5.3 0.9 0.5 0.4
2023-24 SAN DIEGO STATE 32.6 20.0 .551 .387 8.6 1.5 1.2 0.5

Unlike Johnson, LeDee’s success after leaving Ohio State wasn’t an immediate phenomenon.

He spent two years wallowing on TCU’s bench just as he had done as a freshman for the Buckeyes, but one final change of scenery to San Diego State catalyzed a rise to stardom.

LeDee played 39 games last season, only starting one but putting up a respectable 7.9 points in 18.1 minutes per game off the bench, finishing second on the Aztecs with 5.3 rebounds per contest. LeDee played a vital bench role in San Diego State’s run as a No. 5 seed to the Final Four and the 2023 national championship game, which it lost to UConn. LeDee scored double-figure points in two of the team’s NCAA Tournament victories.

This year has been something else entirely. LeDee leads not just San Diego State but the entire Mountain West Conference with 20 points per game. He is third in the Mountain West with 8.6 rebounds per game and tacks on 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals per contest to ensure he’s contributing in other areas. San Diego State is 18-5 on the season and tied atop the Mountain West with a 7-3 conference record.

LeDee might be an awkward fit in Ohio State’s lineup with Jamison Battle already at power forward and Felix Okpara at center, but a scorer and all-around player of his caliber would have a starting spot. Of course, it’s impossible to say whether he’d have developed into such a weapon if he’d been in Columbus his entire five-year career.

Ibrahima Diallo

Ibrahima Diallo Year-by-Year Stats
2019-20 OHIO STATE 5.0 1.5 .385 1.9 0.0 0.0 0.4
2020-21 OHIO STATE 2.0 0.2 .000 0.8 0.0 0.0 0.2
2021-22 SAN JOSE STATE 22.2 7.8 .500 7.2 0.2 0.8 1.5
2022-23 SAN JOSE STATE 17.4 6.0 .587 6.0 0.5 0.3 1.7
2023-24 UCF 18.6 6.2 .560 6.2 0.5 0.6 2.0

A 6-10 behemoth from Dakar, Senegal, Diallo didn’t have much basketball experience upon entering Ohio State and was known to be a developmental but athletic addition to the program as a freshman. But a mere 13 game appearances across two seasons saw him transfer to San Jose State for year three.

In short order, Diallo carved out a role. While he played only 13 games due to injury in his first year at SJSU, he started 12 of those and picked up a team-high 7.2 rebounds per game. He added 7.8 points and 1.5 blocks per contest.

A full year as the Spartans’ starting center in 2022-23 put Diallo back on the radar of major conference teams, and UCF scooped him up from the transfer portal before the 2023-24 campaign. Diallo has provided them with a fantastic interior presence off the bench. Playing just 18.6 minutes of spot duty per game, Diallo is averaging 6.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and two blocks.

Tanner Holden

Tanner Holden Year-by-Year Stats
2019-20 WRIGHT STATE 28.7 11.8 .611 .424 6.5 1.6 1.3 0.4
2020-21 WRIGHT STATE 34.2 15.8 .520 .302 7.3 2.7 0.9 0.1
2021-22 WRIGHT STATE 35.3 20.1 .497 .341 7.1 2.6 1.4 0.2
2022-23 OHIO STATE 13.6 3.6 .478 .500 2.4 0.5 0.4 0.1
2023-24 WRIGHT STATE 32.3 16.2 .564 .375 6.3 3.2 1.6 0.4

Holden’s status as a star player at Wright State is simply a return to what his pre-Ohio State normal was.

He’s not quite matching his massive junior year scoring numbers with the Raiders, picking up 16.3 points per game in 2023-24, but he has seen his assists tick up a notch to 3.3 per contest. Wright State is a middling Horizon League team with a 13-11 overall record.

Despite some aplomb about his transfer as he entered Columbus fresh off a 20-point-per-game season in 2021-22, Holden averaged just 13.6 minutes and 3.6 points per game. He played 12 minutes or less in each of his final eight games at OSU.

Holden never made much of a significant impact for the Buckeyes last year – at least outside one happy memory amid a season chock-full of sad ones for Ohio State.

Alonzo Gaffney

Alonzo Gaffney Year-by-Year Stats
2019-20 OHIO STATE 6.8 1.8 .565 .167 1.4 0.1 0.1 0.2
2021-22 ARIZONA STATE 21.6 4.2 .434 .306 3.6 0.9 0.4 1.3
2022-23 ARIZONA STATE 16.8 3.2 .353 .233 2.9 0.6 0.4 0.6
2023-24 ARIZONA STATE 26.6 7.0 .530 .245 3.4 1.1 1.2 1.3

Gaffney has become a solid all-around starter for Arizona State after a few years of development, contributing on both ends of the floor.

A year of JUCO basketball for Northwest Florida State precipitated his move to Tempe. He started 24 games during his first year with the Sun Devils in 2021-22, but outside his 1.3 blocks per game, there wasn’t much production for the Cleveland native.

Two seasons later, Gaffney’s contributions extend to all areas of the floor except in the area of three-point shooting, where he remains 25% on his career. This year Gaffney is averaging seven points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.

Arizona State isn’t seeing much success as a team, just 11-12 on the campaign, but Gaffney has at least found a nice niche.

Eugene Brown III

Eugene Brown III Year-by-Year Stats
2020-21 OHIO STATE 6.2 1.2 .351 .280 1.3 0.2 0.1 0.1
2021-22 OHIO STATE 17.0 3.5 .442 .229 2.4 0.5 0.2 0.3
2022-23 OHIO STATE 10.1 2.2 .531 .375 1.5 0.2 0.4 0.3
2023-24 GEORGIA SOUTHERN 22.8 8.5 .437 .366 4.3 0.6 1.1 0.8

A transfer out of Columbus made plenty of sense for Brown, who never averaged more than 3.5 points per game in his three seasons as a Buckeye. Seen as a defensive specialist, his minutes dipped from 17 per game in 2021-22 to 10.1 per game in 2022-23.

Brown’s had some injury struggles this season but when healthy, he’s averaged 8.5 points per contest for Georgia Southern. His numbers for the Sun Belt team don’t indicate he’d be of assistance to this year’s Buckeye squad, but it’s at least good to see that he’s grabbed a starting spot for the Eagles.

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