With March Madness concluding, we have now reached college basketball’s offseason. Coaching changes are taking place, prospects are declaring for the draft, and the transfer portal is as full as anyone has ever seen it. And that’s just a broad strokes review of what is happening across the national college basketball landscape.
Specifically in Columbus, the Buckeyes coaching staff and head coach Chris Holtmann are shaking off a heartbreaking loss in the opening round to Oral Roberts. Additionally, they are searching through the transfer portal and also looking at the top remaining uncommitted 2021 recruits in an attempt to make their roster the best it can be for the 2021-2022 season.
The other thing Ohio State’s coaching staff is doing looking to add to their top-ranked 2022 recruiting class. So far the Buckeyes have four-star point guard Bruce Thornton and four-star combo guard Roddy Gayle Jr. in the class, along with three-star shooting guard Bowen Hardman, who is the lone Ohioan in the class.
However, all three of those players are perimeter guys and for those Buckeyes fans out there keeping tabs on this, none of them stand taller than 6-foot-4. As a result, Ohio State still needs to add some height, length, and even more athleticism to this class.
Here are five recruits the Buckeyes are looking at to fill that role in the country’s top ranked 2022 recruiting class.
A.J. Casey, Whitney Young High School (ILL.), 6-foot-8 and 180 pounds
We will start this list with the highest-ranked guy in the recruiting industry and then work our way down the board. Just by watching a few highlights of A.J. Casey, it is easy to see why the Chicagoland big man is rated so highly. He really is everything colleges look for in their modern big men. He has a guard like handle on the ball and a shooting stroke good enough to keep the defense honest. Casey also oozes with length and athleticism that not only make him a good defender but also a very good rebounder.
When looking at his recruitment, it is hard to get an early read because Casey — just like so many other 2022 prospects — has yet to visit many schools. However, Holtmann and Ohio State assistant Ryan Pedon are leading the charge here and at least have Casey’s ear.
The success of a player like E.J. Liddell has Casey’s attention and if the Buckeyes can get him on a visit then their chances with the Windy City native only go up.
Julian Phillips, Blythewood High School (S.C.), 6-foot-8 and 200 pounds
Truthfully, a lot of what we said about A.J. Casey above could just be copied and pasted here for Julian Phillips because their player archetypes are very similar and definitely fit what Ohio State is looking for nowadays. Phillips is a high flyer with loads of length and special athleticism. His handle and driving ability are also top notch, which makes even more intriguing. With all those things in mind, one can safely assume that Phillips’ defense and rebounding are very good.
At the moment, Phillips’ recruitment looks as though it is shaping up to be a southern battle with Ohio State in the mix. Clemson, Florida State, and North Carolina (who hasn’t offered) seem to be a very early top group. However, Ohio State led by the aforementioned Pedon are taking their shot at the near five-star prospect. Kansas and Iowa State are two other Midwest programs that Phillips is looking closely at.
Once again, it is early for Phillips but from the current 5,000-foot view it looks as though it will be a tall task for Ohio State to pull him out of the South. However, with Pedon and Holtmann once again leading the charge, the Buckeyes can not be discounted.
Isaac Traudt, Grand Island Senior School (NE), 6-foot-9 and 205 pounds
Both A.J. Casey and Julian Phillips above were more special athletes who are working to be a stretch big. Isaac Traudt on the other hand is already the ideal stretch big with very good athleticism. That is not meant to be a knock on Traudt or even Casey and Philips. The former just has a different game than the latter two. Traudt is a stretch big that can knock down outside shots and handle the ball on the perimeter. The fancy new term in basketball is ‘point forward’ and it tends to be overused but that really is Traudt’s game. He is also a very good finisher at the rim and rebounds the ball at a high level. His skill could slide right into the role that E.J. Liddell has carved out in Columbus.
As for his recruitment and the potential he ends up in Columbus, it is going to be a dog fight for the Buckeyes to land him. He may be from Nebraska but his offer list is national and it will likely only grow as coaches see more of him. Just based on his junior season alone, Traudt has picked up offers from Kansas and Virginia. On top of that, even more programs are keeping a close eye on the Nebraska Native.
With Traudt being a midwest prospect and the Buckeye having offered early-ish in the process, there is a puncher’s chance here.
Kyle Filipowski, Wilbraham & Monson Academy (MA), 6-foot-10 and 215 pounds
If someone were to poll Buckeye fans at the moment, they would likely tell you that Filipowski is the prospect they want Ohio State to land the most, and for multiple reasons. The simplest one being that he is taller than 6-foot-9 and the more technical reason being that he fits Ohio State’s offense. Jokes aside, Filipowski — or “Flip” as he is known — is another stretch big man that shoots the ball well. Additionally, he rebounds the ball well and his length affects shots on the defensive side. In the simplest terms, Flip is another modern day big man with the elite length.
Out all five prospects on this list, Flip is the prospect that seems most likely to land in Columbus. First off, the Buckeyes led by Ryan Pedon are all over Flip and that persistence isn’t lost on the big man. Secondly, Flip will be spending all spring and summer catching passes from Buckeye commit Roddy Gayle Jr with New York Renaissance on the Nike EYBL circuit. Most everyone knows that relationships run recruiting and the Buckeyes will not only have a close coaching relationship but also a teammate in the fold. Flip does hold numerous offers and a handful of new schools (namely Duke) are watching him closely, so this is no slam dunk for the Buckeyes.
Regardless, relationships win recruiting battles and not many schools will have the relationships with Flip that Ohio State does between Pedon and Gayle Jr.
Prince Aligbe, Minnehaha Academy (MN), 6-foot-6 and 185 pounds
Aligbe has to be the most interesting prospect on this list because if you’re just running down the bold and italicized lines then you realize something is slightly different about his line. That difference is that he is only 6-foot-6 but because of athleticism and effort he plays a lot bigger than he is listed. He has the best ball handling out of everyone on this list and is right up there when it comes to shooting stroke. Aligbe is also a player that can defend one through four and rebounds better than most at his height. High effort, high energy, and high skill can make you forget about the height.
Truthfully, Aligbe’s ranking does not reflect his recruitment. Numerous top programs including Ohio State want this young man, which makes you throw the ranking out the door. He holds offers from schools in the Big Ten, SEC, Big East, Big 12, and Pac-12 if that tells you anything. Seeing as he is a Midwest guy, the hope would be that Ohio State can get him on campus and win him over on a visit. Once visits open up, Aligbe will be a name we will keep a close eye on.
The Buckeyes may not land five-star big man Chet Holmgren, but Chris Holtmann and company are well liked at Minnehaha Academy, which should pay dividends here.
So to recap, with the Buckeyes having three guards already in the fold, the perimeter class seems to be done for now. That just leaves the post players for the Buckeyes in 2022 and these five guys are who Buckeye fans should know going forward.