The Ohio men’s basketball team has all the potential to be even better than it was last season after signing two incoming freshmen for the 2021-2022 season.
Ohio announced it signed Philo High School forward A.J. Clayton on Wednesday and Hargrave Military Academy forward IJ Ezuma on Thursday. Both players are 6-foot-8 and will provide the Bobcats with more size, athleticism and explosiveness.
Clayton is someone the Bobcats have been excited for a while. Having originally committing to Ohio in July of 2020 after his sophomore year, Clayton reclassified as a high school senior so he could get to Athens a year early and join the Bobcats in the fall.
This past season Clayton averaged 23.6 points per game for the Electrics, all while setting the school record for rebounds in a season (289). During Clayton’s three seasons of high school ball, he won the Muskingum Valley League Player of the Year twice.
Meeting Clayton in Athens will be Hargrave Military Academy forward IJ Ezuma. This is the second year in a row that Ohio coach Jeff Boals has plucked a player from the prestigious basketball powerhouse. Last season after hiring former Hargrave coach Lee Martin, Ohio was able to sign freshman standout Mark Sears. Obviously, that relationship is still paying dividends for Ohio.
Ezuma’s high motor and ability to run the floor will fit right in with Ohio’s play style. The Raleigh native plays with aggression and will battle in the paint. He’ll also have to battle for playing time.
Make no mistake, Clayton and Ezuma are some studs. But Ohio is returning most, if not all, of its starting five, and with the return of Jason Carter, it’s going to be difficult to see the court. It’s not the worse problem in the world to have, though. The Bobcats hope to repeat as Mid-American Conference Tournament champs again and return back to the NCAA Tournament after falling in the second round to Creighton.
The first step for Boals was to return the team he had. The second step was to upgrade it.