Ohio State signee Scotty Middleton hoping to write winning ending to prep career
First things first: Scotty Middleton isn’t much a fan of losing.
It’s an approach the top-50 recruit in the 2023 class will bring with him as Bel Aire (Kansas) Sunrise Christian Academy opens the Geico high school national championship tournament Thursday with a shot at overall No. 1 seed Montverde (Florida) Academy. It’s one the 6-7 wing has built over the years from watching Kobe Bryant videos and interviews, one he’s put into his own career and one that has made him a four-star prospect.
It’s also an attitude Middleton said he plans to bring with him to Ohio State as part of a four-man class slated to arrive on campus this summer.
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“I hate losing at anything,” Middleton said. “Anytime we win, I feel good no matter if I score zero points, 20 points. I just guard the best player and if I score zero points and we win the game, I’d rather do that than score 20 points and lose the game.
“If I lose something, anything, I just have to do it again consistently until I win or succeed in it.”
As members of the National Interscholastic Basketball Conference, Sunrise Christian compiled a 20-7 overall record and finished tied for fifth in league play at 7-5. In NIBC games, Middleton was second on the team and 13th in the league in scoring at 11.8 points per game and also averaged 2.4 assists per game. The 247Sports.com composite database ranks him as the No. 4 prospect from Kansas, the No. 10 small forward in the nation and the overall No. 44 recruit.
With Middleton, though, it’s about more than his offense. Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann has spoken often in recent years about attempting to bring in more two-way players capable of contributing on both ends of the court, and that made Middleton a primary target for the Buckeyes in the 2023 class.
Those defensive abilities have been tested on a nightly basis in the NIBC by players such as five-star small forward and teammate Matas Buzelis, five-star 2024 forward Liam McNeeley from Montverde and many others.
“To me, it’s exciting to just know I’m going to have to guard these guys,” Middleton said. “Coach (Holtmann) is telling me I have to guard the best player and I have to be ready for that. It’s really about preparing mentally, because these guys are going to make tough shots and you just have to deal with that and make it as difficult as possible and don’t let them get into a rhythm.”
That will be important when Middleton arrives at Ohio State this summer. He’ll join a Buckeyes team hoping to return to the NCAA Tournament after a 16-19 season that included a stretch of 14 losses in 15 games. Despite that midseason slump, Middleton said the losses never impacted his thoughts on the program and that he believes in the potential under Holtmann and associate head coach Jake Diebler, his primary recruiter.
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As he would talk with his future coaches as their losses were piling up, Middleton said one thing stuck with him.
“Those guys are just winners,” he said. “They’re never gonna stop. One thing I learned about just Ohio State basketball: no matter what it is, no matter if we’re 0-28, we’re gonna always prepare for games the same way. We’re always gonna go out there and compete. Coach Holtmann and coach Diebler, they just have a fight and a drive that you can’t really teach anybody. They always wanna win and they’ll do anything to win.”
Watching the Buckeyes this season “showed me how the struggles of college basketball,” Middleton said. “That’s what coach has been telling me since they started recruiting me: freshmen struggle and how there’s going to be struggles and how you just have to get in the gym more and be together more throughout those struggles together.”
It's a message Middleton said he’s tried to get across to his Sunrise Christian teammates in his second and final season with the program.
“Making sure all my teammates is getting better is how I measure my success,” he said. “Making sure at the end of the season everybody on the team is better mentally, physically, and just understands the game more than the start of the season. And just winning. I’m a winner. I love winning.”
Sunrise Christian will face Montverde on Thursday at 6 p.m. in a game televised by ESPNU.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Before Ohio State, Scotty Middleton working for national title run