Just two days after her son announced his temporary departure from Ohio State Jan. 30, Jennifer Carton took to Twitter.
The near 250-word message praised freshman guard D.J. Carton’s maturity for seeking help with mental health issues, thanked head coach Chris Holtmann and ended with a guarantee that the Buckeyes’ top 2019 recruit would return “stronger than ever in a Buckeye uniform.”
On Thursday, Jennifer Carton’s son took to social media to thank Holtmann and the Buckeye coaching staff once again, but his message made clear that his return will not be in scarlet and gray.
“I have decided to make a fresh start and enter the transfer portal,” Carton’s statement reads. “I wish Coach Holtmann and my teammates the best of luck next year. Please respect my decision.”
The Buckeyes ended the final 11 games of the coronavirus-shortened season without him, but assuming his eventual comeback, Carton was still viewed by many as the star of the future for Ohio State.
The No. 34 overall recruit in the 2019 class averaged a team third-best 10.4 points per game for the Buckeyes in 20 games –– the highest average of any Ohio State freshman in four years –– and made a habit of electrifying crowds with a variety of vicious left-handed dunks.
In fact, Carton’s final game for the Buckeyes –– a road win against Northwestern Jan. 26 –– might have been his best, scoring 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting in just 21 minutes.
The natural scoring ability and bouncy athleticism packed into Carton’s 6-foot-2 frame at point guard made many believe he’d eventually win the starting job over redshirt junior CJ Walker, who played his first minutes as a Buckeye this season after sitting out a year following a transfer from Florida State.
Carton never quite got there though, starting over Walker just once and receiving two more first-team nods alongside him in the backcourt.
But Walker thrived in Carton’s absence, scoring 11.1 points per game and adding 4.4 assists in the final 11 contests –– of which Ohio State won eight –– which improved on averages of 7.5 and 3.1, respectively, beforehand.
With redshirt senior walk-on Danny Hummer the only other point guard on the roster, Walker had no choice but to shoulder the load. After playing less than 30 minutes in 12 of the first 20 games of the year, Walker didn’t play less than 30 in any of the final 11.
The recipe was successful for the Buckeyes in the short term, but not having a true backup point guard for the entirety of the season is hardly sustainable. Yet with news of Carton’s permanent departure, it’s the scenario the Buckeyes are forced to face ahead of the 2020-21 season.
Sophomore Duane Washington is a classic two-guard: a high-volume shooter whose role often hinges on the ability to create his own shot.
Sophomore guard Luther Muhammad has played almost exclusively off the ball on offense in his two seasons, most often scoring on catch-and-shoot 3’s while finding more value as an on-ball defensive stopper.
The Buckeyes will return Musa Jallow at guard after redshirting his junior season due to ongoing ankle problems, but the 6-foot-5 wing won’t be running the point.
Ohio State’s No. 56-ranked 2020 recruiting class has not seen a pure point guard come in either. Not yet, anyway.
Of the two incoming freshmen, Georgia’s Eugene Brown is the closest thing, but the nation’s No. 113 recruit is listed as a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, with a scouting report on 247Sports that refers more to his ability to score from the wing than to run an offense.
Ohio State will likely handle the position by committee when relieving Walker next season, though his services may be leaned on just as heavily –– if not more –– unless another point guard falls from the sky.
The Buckeyes might turn to the transfer portal, where they’ve scored Walker and former California forward Justice Sueing in consecutive seasons, but there is no guarantee of a favorable outcome.