Ohio State freshman guard D.J. Carton (3) dribbles the ball down the court in the first half of the game against Nebraska Jan. 14. Ohio State won 80-68. Credit: Cori Wade | Assistant Photo Editor

D.J. Carton is returning to Ohio State, but he won’t be back on the court for the Buckeyes just yet.

After the freshman point guard announced he was leaving the program for mental health issues Jan. 30, an Ohio State spokesperson confirmed that Carton is returning to Columbus Thursday.

The Buckeyes play Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena 7 p.m. Thursday, which is just an hour away from Carton’s native Bettendorf, Iowa.

Despite the close proximity to Carton’s hometown, Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said Wednesday Carton would not be in attendance for the game.

“There’s a lot that has to happen before that’s even in the conversation medically and in terms of overall health,” Holtmann said.

Holtmann said the only priority is getting Carton on a path toward improved health, and reiterated the late stage of the season when asked if the No. 34 recruit in the 2019 class will return to the team before it ends.

“When a player is pulled away for medical reasons, specifically mental health, there is very specific and extended protocol that goes into that, and it’s to protect the player,” Holtmann said.

On Instagram, Carton posted a clip sitting in Quad City International Airport, which serves Bettendorf, on Thursday.

The post came after Carton reposted a social media entry from junior forward Kaleb Wesson Wednesday night, which featured Carton in the foreground. It was the same image Carton posted alongside his public statement regarding his leave of absence in January.

Holtmann said Wednesday that a lot has to happen before Carton can be “acclimated back into any type of organized activity,” even outside of the basketball team.

Carton has missed the past five games for the Buckeyes, but in the 20 games prior, he averaged 10.4 points per game, third-best on the team.

Carton has continued to send out Buckeye related posts on social media during his absence, and his mother, Jennifer Carton, said on Twitter Feb. 1 that she guaranteed her son would be “back stronger than ever in a Buckeye uniform.”

He may not be in uniform yet, but Carton is returning to the Buckeye state Thursday.