When Ohio State officially announced it hired Chris Holtmann as the new head coach of the men’s basketball team on June 9, it piqued the interest of Versailles, Ohio, small forward Justin Ahrens.
Ahrens decommitted from Ohio State on June 6, a day after the Buckeyes parted ways with Thad Matta as the team’s head coach the last 13 years. Fortunately for Ahrens (6-5, 180), he is already familiar with Holtmann. Ahrens told Buckeye Sports that before he committed to Ohio State in August he garnered much attention from Butler, where Holtmann was the head coach the last three years.
“(Ohio State) got a great coach – I know they would,” Ahrens said of Holtmann. “He was at Butler before and recruited me pretty hard before I committed (to Ohio State). I went on a visit once, and he was probably the coach that sat me down in his office the longest and talked to me just about everything like style of play. I feel like I fit his style of play. If he wants me, I think we can start building a relationship.”
The three-star prospect from the 2018 recruiting class noted that there is an important order of business that must happen for him to consider recommitting to Ohio State. He is also curious to see what the future holds for the assistant coaches currently on the Ohio State staff, as they worked under Matta.
“First off, (I want to see) if he wants me or not,” Ahrens said of Holtmann. “If he does, I’ll really start taking the relationship with Ohio State program serious again. Obviously, I’m serious with it right now, but with the assistant coaches who knows what is going to happen. So I’m just looking to see what happens. If they’re interested in me, I’m still definitely interested in the program. I love everything about Ohio State.”
Holtmann’s first job as a head coach was at Gardner-Webb from 2010-13. He took over an eight-win team and led it to a school Division I record 21 victories in his final season, thus becoming the 2013 Big South Conference Coach of the Year. Ahrens believes Holtmann can do similar things with the Buckeyes, who finished with a 17-15 record in 2016-17.
“I feel like Ohio State is going to get back to the top where they were when they had Aaron Craft and Jared Sullinger and all of them,” Ahrens said. “I feel like they’re going to be back to one of those teams again.”
In his last two seasons at Butler, Holtmann brought in the school’s two highest-ranked recruiting classes in program history. Ahrens is confident Holtmann’s recruiting abilities will help him attract top prospects to Columbus.
“He’s just so easy to get along with and to talk to,” Ahrens said of the new Ohio State coach. “It also helped because the assistants at Butler were great. Coach Ryan Pedon, he was the one that texted me first right after I decommitted (from Ohio State). I just feel like the coaching they had there they got along so well. Obviously, Coach Holtmann, he really knows how to recruit. He’s a great guy and he’s just an even better coach. He’ll just help you in life, too. I feel like with what he’s done at Butler, I feel like he can do that at Ohio State. Just bring in recruits at a high level.”
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