Carton's Status a Mystery as Ohio State Heads for Iowa
The debilitating impact of D.J. Carton's absence from the Ohio State basketball team might seem non-existent, but anyone paying attention to what's ahead can testify it's more like that warning on a car's side mirror:
Danger is closer than it appears.
Sure, the Buckeyes (17-8, 7-7) have won four of five since Carton departed to attend to his mental health on Jan. 31, but upcoming games Thursday at No. 20 Iowa and Sunday against No. 7 Maryland loom as major tests without him.
After that, OSU gets a friendly game at Nebraska before closing the regular season with guard-rich opponents Illinois, Michigan and Michigan State.
OSU coach Chris Holtmann, asked Saturday after a win over Purdue whether Carton could return Thursday, had no prediction.
"I don't have an answer on that right now, one way or the other," Holtmann said. "I don't have an answer on that."
Carton left OSU after his best all-around game in a 71-59 win at Northwestern. He scored 17 points on six-of-eight shooting, had three assists and only one turnover.
A native of Bettendorf, Ia., Carton was the state's Mr. Basketball last season.
Would he want to return against the home-state Hawkeyes, or would that be too flammable a challenge given his reason for taking a break from Ohio State?
Holtmann has said Carton remains engaged with the team and the coaching staff and has avenues to remain academically eligible while he is away.
OSU has stepped lightly around all questions pertaining to Carton, whose absence Holtmann has said he is treating like an injury, while offering staunch support.
Holtmann made sure Saturday to clarify that a chance in OSU's highlight video on social media, which did not include Carton, was not indicative of his status changing.
"D.J. is still very much a part of our team and a part of our program," Holtmann said. "He is very much a part of our team. They change the highlight video all the time...We stay in regular communication with him."
There is little doubt Carton would bolster a backcourt that has leaned heavily on junior C.J. Walker and Duane Washington to provide the play-making decisions in Carton's absence.
"He impacted a lot of things for us when he was practicing and playing," Holtmann said. "No question he impacted things in a real positive way."
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