But after impressing OSU men's basketball coach Jim O'Brien and his staff over the summer, the New Haven, Ohio, product succeeded in getting at least his first year of school paid for. When Emonte Jernigan failed to return for his senior year, a scholarship was opened up. O'Brien called Dials, a 6-1 guard, in and said it was his to have for his freshman year.
"I didn't expect it," Dials said. "I was real excited when they came to me with the word. I didn't know what to say. I had so many emotions going through me. (Conditioning coach Anthony) Glass had us running right before that, so I was breathing pretty hard.
"I kind of kept it to myself until I got back to my dorm room. My dad was the first one I told. That's when it hit me that I had reached one of my goals."
Dials built a strong reputation as a four-year starter at Willard High School, where he was a three-time captain. In his four years, Willard was 85-14 with a Northern Ohio League record of 52-4. As a senior, Dials averaged 27 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. He hit on 42 percent of his three-point shots. In his career, Dials scored 2,180 points at Willard.
He was brought to OSU as a preferred walk-on and took advantage of NCAA rules that allow incoming recruits to attend summer classes.
"It felt good to come in here over the summer," Dials said. "It was real good to get to know the guys. Some of them I have known a long time."
Dials said his goal as a college player is simple.
"The only goal I set for myself as an individual is to help the team as a whole," Dials said. "That's the only one I've set. I just want to get better and do what I can to help the team."
It is unusual for a player to pass up a full ride, but Dials has made that decision pay off -- at least for his freshman year.
"I had a lot of offers and some early (signing period) opportunities," Dials said. "But this is where I wanted to be. This is where I wanted to go to school. It's already like my home away from home."
Associate head coach Rick Boyages said O'Brien was impressed with Dials' work ethic this summer.
"Jim was thrilled with what he saw this summer," Boyages said. "He's on time, he's attentive and he's a hard worker. He did well academically in the summer. These are all of the things we look for in kids character-wise. We had one sitting there we were not using and I think Jim thought he was more than deserving of it."