VERSAILLES – After reopening his college recruitment Tuesday evening, Versailles’ Justin Ahrens said he’s going to take his time in deciding where he wants to continue his basketball career.
In response to The Ohio State University letting go of head men’s basketball coach Thad Matta on Monday, Ahrens announced Tuesday evening on Twitter that he was decommitting from the Buckeyes. Ahrens, who is entering his senior year at Versailles, was blindsided by the news on Monday.
“It took me by surprise, honestly,” he said after helping at Versailles’ youth boys basketball camp Wednesday morning. “I was surprised when I heard the news, and I was kind of starstruck – I just didn’t believe it at first.”
Ahrens is a three-star prospect, according to 247sports.com, and the No. 6 ranked senior in Ohio. As a junior he averaged 22.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game and helped lead his team to the Midwest Athletic Conference championship. He was named the MAC boys basketball player of the year by the league, was named first team all-Ohio in Division III and the Division III co-player of the year by the Associated Press and was one of three players to earn a vote for Ohio’s Mr. Basketball award.
The Versailles senior had been committed to Ohio State since August when he and an AAU teammate, Darius Bazley, gave a verbal commitment to Matta. In April Bazley decommitted from the Buckeyes.
Ohio State Athletics Director Gene Smith cited the Buckeyes losing recruiting battles as one of the reasons for making a coaching change. Matta also referenced health issues including a back problem that has plagued him for almost a decade.
“It’s been hard to swallow,” Ahrens said. “It was hard to tell the (Ohio State) coaches (that I was decommitting), too, but I just feel like it’s the best decision for me and for my future and for me and my family.”
With Ahrens decommitting from the Buckeyes, Ohio State is down to one verbal commitment for the class of 2018 – Upper Arlington shooting guard Dane Goodwin.
“It’s starting to set in now like the way it is,” Ahrens said. “It’s been crazy, honestly. Obviously with me decommitting and reopening my recruitment my phone has been going crazy.”
Less than an hour after announcing that he was reopening his recruitment, Ahrens received a scholarship offer from the University of Dayton. He also quickly picked up offers from Duquesne University, Stony Brook University and Texas A&M University.
Additionally, programs including Butler University; Clemson University; the University of Florida; the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Northern Kentucky University; Purdue University; Stanford University- Virginia Commonwealth University and Xavier University all expressed interest in the 6-foot 5-inch small forward.
“I obviously knew right when it happened I was going to have schools hitting me up so I was kind of expecting it, and it continued on today, and it’s just going to go through July, especially through July period,” Ahrens said. “It’s going to be exciting, and I’m ready for it.
“I’m going to really wait this one out. I’m going to wait a while for me to make my decision. Eventually I’ll probably release like a top eight or top five, but I’m just going to wait the decision out.”
Ahrens plans to set up some recruiting visits in the near future as he searches for the right collegiate program.
“I just want a really good relationship with the coaching staff and the team,” he said. “I just want it to feel like a family. Distance doesn’t really play a factor for me, honestly, so I’m open to any program. I’m really looking to build relationships right now.”
Though Ahrens decommitted from Ohio State, he’s still open to playing for the Buckeyes.
“I can’t wait to see who the new coach is,” he said. “Hopefully I can build a relationship with him, and hopefully he likes my game, hopefully I fit his style of play so those are things I’m kind of looking for with the new coach they get.”
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.