Ohio State, Dayton, Purdue, Xavier among suitors for Ohio’s No. 6 prospect

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Ohio State, Dayton, Purdue, Xavier among suitors for Ohio’s No. 6 prospect

This has not been the summer Justin Ahrens expected.

When the Versailles basketball star wrapped up his junior season in March, he thought his college destination was determined.

After committing to Ohio State last August, there was no reason to think the four-star guard wouldn’t be a Buckeye.

Then Ohio State stunned the basketball world by parting ways with long-time coach Thad Matta on June 5.

Since then, Ohio’s No. 6-rated prospect in the 2018 class has become a hot commodity on the recruiting trail.

“It’s definitely been crazy,” he said. “It kind of took me by surprise, the coaching change at Ohio State. I felt like with all the coaches being gone, I would have to make all new relationships so it would be best to re-start the process.

“Obviously, it’s been going good so far. I think I’ve gotten close to 15 offers since then and a lot more schools have been talking to me. I’ll probably cut my list to 10 or eight or something after July and start taking visits.”

Versailles’ Justin Ahrens scored 38 points. Versailles defeated Greenon 89-36 in a boys high school basketball D-III sectional semifinal at Northmont on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF Staff Writer

Ahrens added Purdue to his list of offers Monday. The Boilermakers join a group that includes Xavier, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Iowa State and Missouri.

He said Florida and North Carolina State have recently been showing strong interest, too.

“It’s just another blessing,” he said of the Purdue offer. “I think I’ve gotten offers from almost every big conference in the country: SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Big East, so it’s been good.”

“Obviously it’s a great school, great fan support,” Ahrens said. “It’s 15 minutes down the road, so it’s definitely a school I’m considering. They text me probably every day or call me. They’ve been in touch and are trying to build a great relationship with me. We really do have a good relationship, so that’s something I’ll look into.”

“They said they see me coming in and playing a lot as a freshman. They feel like I could be someone they could build a team around, to come in and play a lot and just flourish there.”

What’s next for Ahrens?

He’s not in a hurry to decide, but he would like to wrap up his recruiting before his senior season starts. Then the Tigers will be on the hunt for another regional appearance with hopes of making it all the way to the state final four this time.

As for college, Ahrens said playing close to home would be a plus, but distance is not a major factor.

Chris Holtmann, who was hired to be the new coach of the Buckeyes on June 9, reached out right away to re-establish a connection with Ahrens, whom he recruited while he was the coach at Butler.

“They don’t think it’s going to take long to turn the program around,” he said of Holtmann and his staff at Ohio State. “They don’t think it’s going to be a long process. Obviously they’ve had a lot of big commitments lately, and it’s Ohio State so the name kind of helps. Their offense I feel like I fit in well. They like to get out and play and compete. They like to play fast.”

A 6-5 guard who can score from the outside or get to the basket, Ahrens admitted he will need to bulk up to play on the wing in college but wants to be more than a spot-up shooter.

The reigning MAC Player of the Year patterns his game after former Ohio Mr. Basketball Luke Kennard, who starred at Franklin before going to Duke and being drafted by the Detroit Pistons.

“He’s someone I’ve watched since I was young, so I want to try to become a playmaker by the time I make it to the big stage,” Ahrens said. “I want to be able to handle the ball, come off ball screens and run the floor.

“I’m really looking for a school where I can have a good relationship with the coaches and the team. It has to feel like a home away from home. The transfer rates are kind of crazy so I don’t want to be one of them guys. And I’m definitely interested in the style of play. I want to go where I can flourish, a spread offense where you run the floor. That’s the type of player I am. I like to run the floor, play above the rim and shoot the ball. That’s what I do best.”

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