Ohio State’s top 2019 recruit showed Sunday why he could be an impact player in his first season with the Buckeyes.
Freshman guard D.J. Carton flashed the distribution and playmaking abilities that earned him the No. 34 rank in the class of 2019, racking up four assists with just one turnover and a team-high 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting.
“He’s got a good feel for the game,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “He’s gonna go through ups and downs, for sure, and I think that’s part of it. He’s got an understanding, but he’s gonna go through ups and downs, but he’s had a good start.”
Carton’s skills as a playmaker flashed through two primary vessels — 3-point shooting and his play in transition.
Nine of Carton’s points came from behind the arc, where he shot 3-for-4.
The Iowa product’s play in transition added explosiveness to the Ohio State attack, Holtmann said, and his quick-twitch athletic abilities were something the coaching staff admired about him in high school.
“I’ve never coached a guy with his burst,” Holtmann said. “He’s got the best 0-to-60 I’ve coached. That can be a game-changer, sometimes it can get ahead of you and you can get to playing too fast but we loved that about him when we recruited him.”
Carton said his aggression and ability to see the floor help with his performance in the fast break.
“When I go down the court, I’m looking to score right away,” Carton said. “If the rim’s open, I’ll go score, but if there’s a defender in between me and the paint then I’ll look to my left and right. If I’ve got guys running, which I usually do, because our team’s done a really good job running down the court, then I’ll hit them first because I feel like for me I’m a pass first guy.”
Quick-twitch abilities can also help a guard drive to the rim from the perimeter for layups, which Carton did on two occasions Sunday.
It’s a reason Umass-Lowell head coach Pat Duquette said his team had trouble defending Carton and freshman forward Alonzo Gaffney.
“Carton and Gaffney are really good –– Carton especially,” Duquette said. “I didn’t expect him to be that good.”
Carton’s biggest flash of passing talent came with just under 12 minutes to play in the game.
Taking the ball at the top of the key, Carton drove past a River Hawk defender and flipped a pass over his head to cutting junior forward Kyle Young for a dunk.
Less than 20 seconds later he dumped off another no-look pass to sophomore guard Luther Muhammad for two more points, expanding Ohio State’s lead to 59-34.
The layup was yet another play Carton helped generate in transition.
Carton capped his prolific passing performance with a dime to redshirt junior guard CJ Walker that travelled from the left corner to the right wing for a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.
“My teammates are running the floor very well,” Carton said. “It’s giving me many options to get them buckets. So they did a good job of running the floor, and I just did the easy part and hit them when they were wide open.”
The point guard said his level of comfort continues to grow as Ohio State enters its third game after it started rough over the summer with a litany of turnovers and out-of-control play.
Carton said Walker, who has started over him at point guard in the first two games, showed him how to run an effective collegiate point.
“He does a really good job of being poised, I just kind of watch,” Carton said. “Every day I just continue to work on that, and now it’s coming naturally. I’m still having my exciting plays and playing with a lot of energy, but yet still controlling the offense and getting it to guys that are hot.”