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On court or recruiting trail, Chris Holtmann keeps proving he’s right guy for Ohio State

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Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann is laying the foundation for the program. (Nick Clarkson/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Basketball

On court or recruiting trail, Chris Holtmann keeps proving he’s right guy for Ohio State

COLUMBUS — Maybe the turning point is already in the rearview mirror for Chris Holtmann.

After all, he’s already guided Ohio State back to the NCAA Tournament. A successful first recruiting class was put together on the fly and has quickly impressed during summer workouts. Heck, he even had an NBA draft pick with an impressive contract to point to after less than a year on the job.

All of that reinforced the fact that Holtmann was absolutely the right guy for the Buckeyes when the time for change arrived last year. But if the future is really going to be as bright as it seems, Ohio State might be looking back at his work over the last couple months as the pivotal juncture when the momentum truly shifted — while Holtmann’s hair was falling out and his eyes were getting infected.

“Yeah, five years from now, I don’t know what I’m going to look like,” Holtmann joked. “I think everybody knows recruiting is really cutthroat. Sometimes you’ve got to wear the battle scars a little bit from a week on the road.

“It’s been a rough 18 months for my overall health, but so far, so good. I’m making it.”

It might not look like it thanks to that bald patch on his head in April or the glasses he had to wear to his press conference before practice on Tuesday. But Holtmann has Ohio State collectively as healthy as it has been in years.

Chris Holtmann is on a recruiting roll

The on-the-court success of his first season in charge of the Buckeyes is obviously a significant factor and a key part of his sales pitch. But Holtmann and his staff have also proven to be relentless, tireless workers on the recruiting trail, using that track record and building relationships to put the program on pace to once again be a national contender in relatively short order.

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Chris Holtmann has Ohio State in position for a bright future. (Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports)

That, of course, might prove to be difficult this year, even after going out and landing graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods as part of Holtmann’s busy summer — which will end with a tour of Spain with the current Buckeyes in August. That’s a nice head start for his second season with the program, though replacing Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate remains a daunting challenge for a roster that will be relying on a lot of new faces.

But beyond this season, the Buckeyes are clearing building something special following 5-star point guard DJ Carton’s pledge to the Buckeyes over the weekend. That gave Ohio State a pair of top-30 recruits in the next class after already getting a commitment from Alonzo Gaffney, and it previously added Florida State guard CJ Walker on the transfer market.

“Well, I think [on-court and recruiting success] go hand in hand, for sure,” Holtmann said. “I just think for us, we have got to continue to be really diligent in recruiting. And our staff is that way, we have some dogs when it comes to recruiting. They really, really are aggressive and do a tremendous job. Now, that doesn’t always translate into recruiting success, but I believe if you do it enough and you get there close enough with certain kids, you’ll get your fair share. We have to continue to do that.

“Hopefully we can put quality class after quality class together — and guys that fit us, too. It’s not going to be for everyone.”

Chasing down those guys clearly isn’t always easy, and Holtmann hasn’t been able to hide the physical toll the grind has taken on his body.

There may even been more rough patches coming this season, at least compared to what the Buckeyes did in Year One and the remarkable turnaround Holtmann engineered right away. But he’s clearly not afraid of a little work, and Ohio State is set to reap the benefits for years to come.

“We’re certainly excited about these young kids we have here now, and then hopefully continuing to put together quality classes together,” Chris Holtmann said. “We feel like we’ve gotten off to a quality start.”

The best, though, appears to be on the road ahead.

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I was skeptical when Ohio State hired him, I wanted Archie Miller before he went to Indiana. But after a year I’m glad I was wrong, Holtmann looks like he will be a great coach.

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Really excited about the future of OSU basketball. I really wish Thad had been able to get that championship, but maybe this staff can build off his foundation and take OSU to the promised land

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Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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