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Transfer Portal Roundup: Who Ohio State Has Reached Out to And Other Players It Could Make A Run At

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With E.J. Liddell out the door and Malaki Branham likely to follow, Ohio State’s roster rebuild must begin taking shape in short order.

Transfer portal entries have been flooding in at an increased rate by the day, and given the contributions Ohio State is losing – and could still stand to lose – in the coming weeks, the Buckeye coaching staff has been wise to reach out to a slew of top transfers around the country who could help bolster the scarlet and gray roster this offseason.

Ohio State had nine seniors on its roster last season and already knows it is losing its top player as Liddell announced he is going pro last week. Malaki Branham also declared for the NBA draft on Friday, though he has not yet made a final decision on whether he will stay in the draft and could still withdraw from the draft before June 1. Justice Sueing, Justin Ahrens and Seth Towns could all come back, but none of them have yet made any official announcements on their future plans.

With plenty of looming questions about the 2022-23 roster, the Buckeyes have been in touch with many of the best players available in the transfer market. Below, we’ve compiled a list of players that we know Ohio State has been in contact with, as well as a few other intriguing prospects who could potentially make sense for the Buckeyes even though they have not had confirmed contact with Ohio State yet.

Confirmed Targets

F Jalen Bridges (West Virginia)

Having already recruited him once, Ohio State is on a short list to land West Virginia transfer Jalen Bridges, who had the Buckeyes among his top 10 schools before committing to the Mountaineers in September 2019. Bridges redshirted his true freshman season before making his collegiate debut in 2020, and the 6-foot-7 forward averaged 8.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 33 starts for West Virginia this past season. Bridges visited Ohio State’s campus this week, but he’s also slated to visit Alabama in April with Michigan State and Baylor in the mix as well.

G Rob Phinisee (Indiana)

Four-year Hoosier veteran Rob Phinisee, a four-star prospect in the class of 2018, is looking to make a move ahead of his fifth season of college basketball. The Buckeyes are hoping he stays in the Big Ten, as they reached out to the 6-foot-1 Indiana guard soon after entering the transfer portal. After starting 69 games his first three seasons, Phinisee didn’t notch a single start this past year, averaging just 4.5 points per game on 31.5 percent shooting for the Hoosiers.

Phinisee does have 111 career appearances under his belt, though, and won’t need an adjustment to the level of competition in the Big Ten.

F Ali Ali (Akron)

Holtmann got a front row seat to see Akron forward Ali Ali this past season, as the 6-foot-8 junior put up 17 points in a game that pushed the Buckeyes to the brink in the very first game of the year. No player besides E.J. Liddell scored more points than Ali in the contest, and his size, length and versatility could allow his game to transfer well to a step up in competition. Ali averaged 13.9 points and 2.5 assists last season, and knocked down 40.7 percent of his 3-point attempts.

G Will Richard (Belmont)

Fairburn, Georgia’s Will Richard averaged 12.1 points per game on 46.8 percent shooting and racked up six boards a night as a true freshman for Belmont this past season. The first-year wing started 30 straight games to close out the year for the Bruins after beginning the season on the bench. In Belmont’s final game of the year, Richard had an impressive stat line against Vanderbilt in an NIT loss, scoring 22 points on 7-for-13 shooting, pulling down eight rebounds and blocking three shots against the SEC opponent.

The Buckeyes reached out in the first 36 hours after Richard entered the transfer portal.

G Camren Wynter (Drexel)

First-team All-CAA Drexel guard Camren Wynter heard from Ohio State, among many other high-major college basketball programs, within the first eight hours that his name entered the transfer portal. The four-year veteran has scored at least 11 points per game in each season he’s played with the Dragons, and he led the team with averages of 15.8 points and 4.6 assists a season ago. The Buckeyes could use improved guard play with Jamari Wheeler, Jimmy Sotos, Cedric Russell (and likely Branham) departing from the program this offseason, which could make Wynter a good fit for the program.

G Jaelin Llewellyn (Princeton)

Princeton transfer guard Jaelin Llewellyn did enough in three years on the court in the Ivy League to garner attention across the country upon entering the transfer portal, and Ohio State is no exception. The two-time all-conference performer was a top-100 overall prospect out of Ontario in the 2018 recruiting class, and averaged at least 15 points per game in each of the past two seasons for the Tigers.

Llewellyn was the second-leading scorer for the Ivy League regular-season champs this past season, putting up 15.7 points and hitting 38.6 percent of his 3-pointers while also adding 4.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

F/C Manny Bates (North Carolina State)

Four-year North Carolina State veteran Manny Bates, a 6-foot-11 big man with legitimate defensive credentials, is another transfer portal entry the Buckeyes have shown interest in. Bates played in just one game this past year before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, but the No. 104-rated prospect in the class of 2018 was already among the top shot blockers in program history before then. Ohio State has lacked athletic bigs with top-end size over the past couple seasons, and Bates could provide that in 2022-23.

G Tristen Newton (ECU)

East Carolina’s Tristen Newton made a big leap this past season to become one of the top players in the AAC, averaging 17.7 points per game, five assists and 4.8 rebounds as he started 30 games for the 15-15 Pirates. At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, the Texas native could be another candidate to provide veteran leadership and instant scoring ability to a Buckeye backcourt that will lose both over the offseason.

G Sean McNeil (West Virginia)

Another Mountaineer Ohio State has shown interest in since entering the transfer portal is veteran guard Sean McNeil, a 6-foot-3 Kentucky native who averaged 12.2 points per game and shot 36.8 percent from 3-point range a season ago. McNeil had 23 double-digit scoring performances a year ago and hit the 20-point mark on three occasions, never shy to put up an attempt from the outside with an average of 4.8 3-point attempts per game.

G Antonio Reeves (Illinois State)

The MVC’s Most Improved Player this past year, Illinois State guard Antonio Reeves averaged 20.1 points per game in 2021-22, shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 39 percent from the 3-point line. The all-conference performer caught the eye of Ohio State and plenty of other high-profile programs with those numbers, and may very well wind up becoming a major boost for one of them once he decides on his next destination this offseason.

G Dylan Penn (Bellarmine)

Bellarmine guard Dylan Penn averaged 16.6 points per game this past season, and the 6-foot-3 backcourt player raised that to 19.3 in a three-game run that earned him A-Sun Tournament MVP as the Knights won the 2022 conference title. Penn has drawn the interest of the Buckeyes, among other programs, as Ohio State continues to mine the transfer portal for a guard that can provide a boost to the Buckeye backcourt in the year to come.

G Nijel Pack (Kansas State)

An All-Big 12 selection, 6-foot guard Nijel Pack averaged 17.4 points per game and 3.8 rebounds for the Wildcats this past season. From the 3-point line, where Pack attempted a whopping 7.5 shots per game as a sophomore, he connected on 43.6 percent of them to give Kansas State a reliable threat behind the line at all times.

Prolific scoring from the point guard position was often an issue for Ohio State last year, but Pack could change that if he reciprocates interest in the Buckeye program during his post-transfer portal recruitment.

Other Potential Targets

C Efton Reid (LSU)

In what can only described as a roller-coaster end to a long recruitment last year, 6-foot-11 five-star center Efton Reid had Ohio State among his top schools before ultimately committing to LSU on May 9, 2021. But after just one year with the Tigers, Reid is in search of a new program to call home this offseason (along with every other player on last year’s LSU roster). Reid started all 34 games for LSU, averaging 6.3 points on nearly 52 percent shooting and pulling down 4.3 rebounds per game.

While there’s been no official indication that the Buckeyes have reached out to Reid since entering the transfer portal Thursday, Ohio State loses 6-foot-11 center Joey Brunk this offseason, and Reid could pair with incoming top-50 prospect Felix Okpara at the center position.

G Andre Curbelo (Illinois)

There’s been no confirmation that Ohio State has reached out to Curbelo since the 2020-21 Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year entered the transfer portal, but given his Big Ten experience and ties to high school teammate Zed Key, speculation about the Buckeyes’ involvement isn’t exactly ludicrous. Curbelo dealt with injuries during a sophomore season that was significantly less impressive than his first, but the former top-50 overall prospect remains an intriguing transfer portal entry for Ohio State and plenty of other programs around the country.

G Tanner Holden (Wright State)

Wheelersburg, Ohio, native Tanner Holden, a two-time all-conference honoree with Wright State, is another tantalizing transfer portal prospect for the Buckeyes with the looming potential loss of Branham. A 6-foot-6 guard that averaged 20.1 points across 36 games this past season, Holden had a 37-point outburst against Bryant in the NCAA Tournament and previously scored 38 in a regular season game earlier in the year.

Given his Ohio roots, one can’t help but think he’d be a good fit for the Buckeyes, but there has been no official word on interest one way or the other.





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