“I’ve recruited Ohio for over 20 years, and it has outstanding players and coaches. It will be paramount to our success, no question. We’re going to work extremely hard to close the borders.”
Those were the words uttered by Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Chris Holtmann during his introductory press conference on June 12, 2017. So far, so good. While only one of the four commits in both the 2018 and 2019, recruiting classes, respectively, are in-state prospects (Justin Ahrens in 2018, Alonzo Gaffney in 2019), Holtmann and his staff are more than making up for it in 2021.
On May 12, the Buckeyes got a commitment from Crestview, Ohio four-star forward Kalen Etzler, the No. 7-ranked prospect in Ohio (No. 29 power forward, No. 149 overall). It was the start of what Holtmann was hoping would be a loaded class with plenty of talent in the state.
Then on Tuesday, Ohio State received even more great news: Garfield Heights four-star guard Meechie Johnson committed to the Buckeyes. The combo-guard is not only the third-ranked player in Ohio in 2021 but the fifth-best player at his position (No. 71 overall). Johnson told Holtmann of his commitment during an unofficial visit in Columbus.
Blessed day for me and my family! I would like to take the time to thank ALL of the coaches who ever texted, called and offered my son. We’re truly blessed and grateful. With that being said, Meechie committed to The Ohio State University. Go BUCKS, we are staying home! pic.twitter.com/UpBaYL3hx3
— Demetrius Johnson (@HWBBall15) August 13, 2019
“I told him, ‘I’m just asking for the opportunity to be who I am and come in and work. If you can trust me as a player and I can trust you as a coach, I’m all-in,’ ” Johnson said, according to The Columbus Dispatch’s Adam Jardy. “He said he trusts me. He’s going to give me the opportunity, I’m going to have to work, nothing is going to be guaranteed.
“He said, ‘Are you in?’ I said, ‘You’ve got me, Coach.’”
Johnson’s commitment was a bit of a surprise. Not because he wanted to stay home and play for the scarlet and gray but due to the timing. Including Ohio State, he already had offers from Louisville, Georgetown, and Miami (Ohio) University. Michigan State was also starting to recruit him hard. As time went on, it’s likely that others would have joined in and recruiting Johnson hard. It appears it’s a little too late for them though.
After tearing his ACL on March 7, cutting his 2018-19 short, Johnson’s ranking and offers seemed to take quite a hit. He has yet to play in a game since, including for All-Ohio Red, his Nike EYBL squad. Even then, the Buckeyes know the type of player he can be.
“They’ve been recruiting him real hard,” Garfield Heights assistant coach and Meechie’s dad, Demetrius Johnson Sr. said. “They recruited him real hard before he had the injury and after the injury, they recruited him the same way. They’re really consistent on him and just pushing him to be a Buckeye.
“Ohio State is the school you dream to go to,” Johnson Sr. said. “All of us in Ohio, you dream to go there. For me not to go there and for my son to go there, it’s a big blessing. It is just a crazy feeling altogether.”
Holtmann made Johnson a priority the moment he was named the head coach of the Buckeyes. Just months into the guard’s high school career, Ohio State extended him an offer on November 29, 2017, and they have been hard after him ever since.
The combo-guard averaged 23 points as a sophomore. As a freshman, he notched a 50-point game. Not bad, eh?
In a game filled with D1 talent, a #GarfieldHeights FRESHMAN went for 50 points last night.
— Pat Chiesa (@PatChiesa) December 9, 2017
Expected to be fully healthy for the upcoming season, the junior would have likely received not only plenty more looks from top-tier schools across the country but offers as well. Luckily for Holtmann and Ohio State, they know that he will continue to improve and is already committed to the Buckeyes.
Johnson will reunite with former high school teammate Alonzo Gaffney in Columbus. The two were teammates at Garfield Heights when Johnson was a freshman and Gaffney was a junior before the latter transferred to Brewster Academy (New Hampshire) for his senior season.
While the Buckeyes don’t have a single commitment in the 2020 class, things will likely get rolling sooner rather than later. With Andre Wesson being the only senior on the team for the 2019-20 season, Ohio State only has one scholarship for the 2020 class, as it currently stands. They are also the only team in the country with multiple 2021 commitments.
When Etzler committed to Ohio State, he made it a priority to bring other Ohio kids to the nation’s capital with him. Now, both he and Johnson are tasked to do so. Much like he has been, Etzler is already recruiting St. Vincent-St. Mary four-star combo-guard Malaki Branham (No. 3 combo-guard, No. 41 overall).
@MalakiBranham Meech and i are waiting on that commitment ⚫️🔴⚪️
— Kalen Etzler (@kalen_etzler24) August 13, 2019
The Buckeyes continue to impress on the court and seem to have a very bright future there, but along with that, Holtmann and crew have also done a great job on the recruiting trail. They already have a very solid start in the 2021 class. The future is bright for the scarlet and gray on the hardwood and Buckeye Nation has Holtmann, his staff and players, and Ohio prospects to thank for that.
Holtmann is brewing something special in Columbus. It’s already obvious that Ohio kids don’t want to miss out.