VERSAILLES – When Justin Ahrens visited The Ohio State University, it felt like home for the Versailles High School junior.
That’s why Ahrens gave his verbal commitment to the Buckeyes along with AAU teammate Darius Bazley during a recruiting trip to Ohio State last weekend.
“It’s really exciting,” Ahrens said. “Still hasn’t really sunk in yet. It’s just a great feeling because I think it’s really where I need to be.”
Ahrens has two more years of high school before he enrolls in college, but he felt like he needed to be in Columbus and wanted to lock up his spot in Ohio State’s 2018 recruiting class.
“I think I fit there well, and I wanted to lock my spot in,” he said. “We felt like it was home.”
Ahrens and Bazley, a junior at Princeton High School in Cincinnati, are Ohio State’s second and third members in the class of 2018. They join Upper Arlington guard Dane Goodwin, who previously had committed to the Buckeyes.
With the trio of Ohioans, Ohio State has three of the top four in-state players in the class of 2018, according to 247Sports.com. Bazley is ranked second in Ohio, Goodwin third and Ahrens fourth.
“I think it’s a smart decision after seeing what everyone saw last year,” Ahrens said of Ohio State focusing on Ohio’s top prospects.
In 2015 Ohio State had the nation’s fifth best recruiting class, according to 247Sports.com. Of the five members of that highly touted class, only JaQuan Lyle remains with the Buckeyes one year later after the four others transferred.
Ahrens is excited to represent his home state and thinks having other Ohioans on the roster will lead to a more dedicated team.
“They’re really fighting for the name on the front of the jersey, not the not on the back,” he said.
Ohio State is still pursuing Dwayne Cohill from Holy Name High School in Cleveland for its 2018 class. Cohill is the top-ranked player from Ohio in the class, according to 247Sports.com, and Ahrens is trying to help persuade him to join the Buckeyes.
“Hopefully I can get him,” Ahrens said.
Ahrens said he texts every day with Cohill. He also texts every day with Bazley, and they continue to push each other to improve.
Ahrens and Bazley have been AAU teammates since their freshman year of high school, and this year moved to the King James Shooting Stars AAU team together. They wanted to team up in college and now will get the opportunity at Ohio State.
“We’re like brothers honestly,” Ahrens said. “We room together every tournament.”
In going to Ohio State, Ahrens is setting up a rivalry with his brother Kyle Ahrens, a sophomore at Michigan State University. As a freshman the elder Ahrens played in 26 games for the Spartans and averaged 1.2 points and 0.6 rebounds a game.
“It’s going to be interesting,” the younger Ahrens said about playing against his brother. “It should be fun.”
At Ohio State Ahrens expects to play as a wing and have a chance to contribute right away for the Buckeyes. Coach Thad Matta told Ahrens he reminds him of former Ohio State star Jon Diebler, a record-setting Buckeye who specialized in shooting 3-pointers, the Versailles junior said.
“We want to have an instant impact on the team,” Ahrens said of his and Bazley’s goals. “We want to win a Big Ten championship, win a national championship and hopefully one day make it to the NBA.”
Prior to leaving for Ohio State, Ahrens has two more years left at Versailles and expects big things from the Tigers. Ahrens was the leading scorer as a sophomore with 22.7 points per game for the Midwest Athletic Conference champions.
“I think we’re going to be better this year,” Ahrens said. “We have four of our five starters back.”
Last year Versailles was inexperienced, Ahrens said, but this year the Tigers have the talent and experience required to win another MAC title and contend for a spot at the Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament.
“I think we’re going to be really, really good,” Ahrens said. “I really think we can do it, honestly.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.