Early Monday afternoon the Ohio State basketball program got some big news both literally and figuratively. That news came in the form of the commitment of 2022 center Felix Okpara out of Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The top-50 player and four-star prospect has been a top target for the Buckeyes for quite some time now, but it wasn’t until last weekend when he finally decided to end his recruitment.
“It was kind of a relief, you know,” Okpara told Buckeye Scoop. “It was this weekend, I called and I told them. They were really excited.”
That is the when the staff learned of Okpara’s commitment, but he also gave Buckeye Scoop the reason why he picked the Buckeyes. It ultimately came down to the culture head coach Chris Holtmann has built and the players his staff has developed.
“When I was on my visit to Ohio State I saw the relationship that the players and the coaches had and I loved that,” Okpara said. “I also love the facilities, everything about the school, and one more thing is the progress they have made developing bigs. They’ve got a really good record of developing players.”
And just like every other commit in Ohio State’s 2022 class, Okpara’s recruitment was spearheaded by Buckeyes assistant Jake Diebler. The former Vanderbilt staffer has strong ties inside the Volunteer state which helped in this recruitment. However, in the end, it came down to Diebler’s ability to build genuine relationships with recruits like Okpara.
“Man, he’s a really nice guy, he’s a good dude,” Okpara said of the Buckeye assistant. “He calls and checks on me after every game. He tells me what I did bad, what I did good, and what I need to work on. I feel like if he can be that truthful with me, I can really trust him.”
Aside from just Diebler, the future Ohio State big man has also grown with the Buckeyes headman Chris Holtmann. The two talk often and Holtmann’s message to Okpara has been consistent.
“I’ve talked to him a lot,” he said. “He’s been saying how they are going to help me improve my game and that they can really help me go to the next level.”
When it comes to both Holtmann and Diebler, along with fellow assistant Ryan Pedon, all three watched their future center closely the last two weekends at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam. While he didn’t notice them every time they watched him, Okpara did feel some pressure when he knew their eyes where on him.
“Sometimes I didn’t really notice they were right there but when I did, it was kind of–I wouldn’t say scary, but I was trying to show off,” he said.
One other benefit of Peach Jam for Okpara was getting to watch his future teammates in Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle Jr. And since he committed, the two leaders of Ohio State’s class have been in contact with their hopeful future alley-oop recipient.
“Yeah I watched some of Bruce and some of Roddy but I didn’t get the chance to play against them” Okpara said, adding, “Oh yeah, they’ve been texting me.”
With Okpara’s commitment, the Buckeye stand pat as the number one recruiting class in the country for the 2022 class with four total commitments. But most importantly they get a great person and player that can be their future at the center position.