- Marcus Hartman
There was more to see of Justin Ahrens at the 2018 Flyin’ to the Hoop than last year’s version — in more ways than one.
The Versailles senior, who signed with Ohio State in November, said he is an inch taller and about 10 pounds heavier than he was last season.
The reigning Midwest Athletics Conference Player of the Year now tips the scales at 196 and is measuring in at 6-foot-6.
“That’s something colleges have been wanting to see me do, add a little weight and strength to help me at the next level because Ohio State is looking for me to make an immediate impact,” he said after the Tigers topped Sidney 65-50 on Sunday.
He is also trying to expand his game beyond being a three-point marksman and a fast-break scorer.
“I’ve been trying to show everybody I’m not just a shooter. I’m not just a guy who runs in transition and dunks occasionally,” Ahrens said. "I can handle the ball too and that’s what college coaches are seeing from me doing, coming off ball screens, feeding the bigs, moving the ball across the floor and really spreading the floor.”
With growth there have been pains, though.
“It’s something hard to admit to but I feel like I’m a little out of shape,” he said. “I’m not quite strong enough to where I want to be so I’ve got to stay in the weight room during the weekend to get to where I want to be.”
Ahrens’ game did have a certain work-in-progress feel to it Sunday against Sidney.
He scored 26 points but missed 18 of his 29 shots from the floor.
Ahrens was only 2-for-13 from the free-throw line but scored from all over the floor.
There were drives to the basket, contested layups on cuts through the lane and even a smooth fadeaway from the baseline.
He also whipped passes all over the floor, resulting in five assists, and hauled down 11 rebounds.
Will making changes to his game now pay off when he gets to Columbus next season?
New coach Chris Holtmann apparently is counting on it.
“He wants us to come in and make an immediate impact,” Ahrens said. “He’s willing to make the leap, to have us freshmen make mistakes and have it pay off in years to come.”
There’s business to take care of at home first, though, for Ahrens.
Along with twin brother A.J., he wants to take the Tigers to Columbus in March for a shot at a state championship.
Justin Ahrens also has the all-time MAC scoring record in his sights as his senior season continues.
He has 1,712 points and is 33 behind 2004 Versailles graduate Kyle Gehle for the top spot.
He also trails Greg Kahlig, who scored 1,727 points for Fort Recovery.
The Tigers play host to Fort Recovery on Friday night but first have a trip to Lima Central Catholic scheduled for Tuesday night.