Jordan Mitchell: The freshman Ohio State offered now to stop the Michigan State pipeline in Columbus

NEWARK, Ohio -- Nick Ward's green and white Michigan State knit hat was immediately noticeable only because it clashed with his blue and gold Gahanna basketball warmup suit.

Ward wasn't concerned with the clashing colors. It was more about letting everyone know that he was a Spartan. He's been signed since November, and his allegiances are to East Lansing.

Jordan Mitchell, Ward's Gahanna teammate, walked out a few minutes later. No hat. No name signed on the dotted line yet. He's only a freshman after all. His services are still up for grabs.

Everyone will come calling. Mitchell is that good. He's just still young enough that his recruitment hasn't become crazy. Don't worry, it will.

It's a safe bet that Michigan State will get involved. The Spartans have a good thing going in Gahanna. Ward is signed for 2016, and forward Javon Bess signed in 2014. One more player and you could start throwing out the P-word. Pipeline. Michigan State is building one at a high school in Ohio State's backyard -- 13 miles from campus.

That's part of the reason Ohio State offered Mitchell, just 15 years old, two weeks ago. The Buckeyes can't afford to have another homegrown player like that go to a Big Ten rival. So Ohio State is in early -- Mitchell's first offer actually -- with the hope of securing a commitment from a player who could blossom into one of the best in the country.

"The ceiling for Jordan is endless," Gahanna coach Tony Staib told cleveland.com after the Lions beat Pickerington North in a district semifinal at Newark High School on Wednesday.

Mitchell scored 11 points, and made it look effortless on only a handful of shots.

"I've been blessed here to have some quality Division I players, and he has the potential to be the best who's come through here," Staib said.

That means eventually better than Ward and Bess. Yeah, Michigan State is going to be in on that.

Zach Fleer, who covers Columbus-area high school basketball closely for 270Hoops.com estimated that Mitchell could eventually become a top 25-40 caliber player nationally. Anything can happen, but as a freshman Mitchell has shown flashes to set the bar that high.

Ohio State knows how good Mitchell could be. He's a still-developing 6-foot-6 wing with a good shooting stroke, good vision and handle and length that could make him an elite defender someday.

"They see something great in me, and feel like I have a great future ahead of me," Mitchell told cleveland.com.

So it's easy to see why Ohio State would offer Mitchell now.

It's about more than cutting off that Michigan State pipeline to Gahanna. It's about cutting off anyone from coming into Ohio. Mitchell said he's recently heard from Arizona, and Indiana has been recruiting him. More will come.

The Buckeyes can't stop everyone (this isn't football), but they can be more proactive about it. Getting a kid from an in-state program that's sent players elsewhere in recent years would be a step in regaining a recruiting stronghold in Ohio. The Buckeyes' last six recruiting classes have included 19 total players, but only six from Ohio.

If you're paying attention to what's been happening with Ohio State recruiting recently, though, you'll notice a shift.

Both 2016 commitments are Ohio products, and the Buckeyes are mulling offering a third in Westerville South forward Andre Wesson. The lone commitment for 2017, Kaleb Wesson, is from Ohio, and the Buckeyes would like to add Cleveland point guard Markell Johnson. Dane Goodwin from Upper Arlington is committed for 2018.

And now they're in early on Mitchell. That's what you do with elite players in your backyard.

"Ohio State loves length with their guards, and he's so long," Staib said. "They just know watching him as this season has developed, they know the height of his ceiling as well. He's still got a lot of growing to do, maturing physically. They just know he does some special things as a 15 year old and he's only going to get better."