The Bobcats were turned into a recruiting powerhouse by current Akron head coach John Groce, who coached the Bobcats from 2008 to 2012. Under Groce, Ohio signed a number of highly-ranked recruits, including D.J. Cooper, who is still the highest-rated recruit in program history, according to 247Sports.
After Ohio's recruiting lulled a bit between 2012 and 2019 under head coaches Jim Christian and Saul Phillips, it hired former player Jeff Boals from Stony Brook to turn its recruiting around, and he did exactly that.
When Boals was at Stony Brook, he was recruiting a talented small forward from Powell, Ohio, named Ben Roderick, who was unsure about moving so far away from home.
"I've always been a fan of Coach Boals, even when he was at Stony Brook," Roderick said. "But I knew I wanted to stay close to home, so I wasn't too interested in that."
Roderick was the No.6 recruit in Ohio in the 2019 class, and while Boals wanted him at Stony Brook, he knew he needed to get him to Athens.
"When I was at Stony Brook, we offered him," Boals said. "When I got the (Ohio) job, my first phone call was to him, and we were able to do a home visit and got him on a campus visit and got him to commit."
That 2019 class, which Boals recruited before he had even coached a game at Ohio, was the No. 1 ranked class in the MAC. Boals would then recruit a second No. 1 MAC class in 2020 and a third in 2022.
Jesse Jarrold-Grapes | Photo Editor
The Ohio bench explodes during the final moments against Central Michigan with starters celebrating their teammates' performance on the court.
The only year of Boals' tenure in which he did not have the best recruiting class in the MAC was 2021 when COVID-19 impacted recruiting. Despite bringing in just one player that year, Boals showed his ability to bring talent to Athens by getting Jason Carter to return to Ohio for his final season.
When Roderick was first recruited, he was the second highest-rated recruit in program history, but he has since been passed by two more Boals recruits in Mark Sears, who is now the starting point guard for No. 2 Alabama, and A.J. Brown, who has shown significant promise in his freshman season at Ohio.
While Boals has shown he is a capable coach on the floor, his attitude off it is even more important when trying to bring high-level recruits to Athens.
"We've got a great coaching staff," Roderick said. "Coach Boals is a great guy on and off the floor. He really cares about us, not just on the court but how our family is doing and how we're doing in our personal lives. I think it really goes a long way."
Boals has signed six of the top 10 recruits in Ohio history in just four years and only three actual recruiting classes. Of those six, four are currently on the team and three are either freshmen or sophomores.
Despite his recruiting successes, Boals still credits Ohio as the main draw for high school players and the reason so much talent has come to Athens.
"It says a lot about the university," Boals said. "The way college basketball is now, you've got to continually recruit and we feel like if we get a kid to campus, they see what we have to offer in the facility, the campus, the academics, we feel pretty good about our chances."
Boals has had tremendous success, both on and off the court, in his four years with Ohio, and he has stayed true to his recruiting philosophy through it all.
"We're always going to try to get the best talent," Boals said. "But also guys who can fit our culture, are good students, have high character, love the game of basketball and are serious about a degree."
The character of the players Boals recruits can be seen in Ohio's improvement over the 2022-23 season.
This year has proved that no matter what Ohio's roster looks like and how they play at the beginning of the season, as long as Boals remains in Athens, Ohio will have a chance.