Freshman guard D.J. Carton is leaving the Ohio State men’s basketball program indefinitely to attend to a health issue.


The news, which was announced Thursday by a team spokesman, comes two days before the Buckeyes host Indiana and on the heels of one of his best performances of the season. It’s not clear if Carton will return this season, although it’s a possibility and he remains a part of the team.


In a statement posted to social media, Carton said the move has to deal with mental health issues he has been struggling with for some time.


"I have been suffering with mental health issues for a couple years," he wrote. "I’m disappointed to say I’m not 100% right now. I am not doing my teammates justice if I don’t work on this now. I am doing everything in my power to strengthen my mental health.


"I will fight for my team and buckeye nation and I will come back stronger!"


Carton also had a message for those dealing with similar issues.


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"If you are going through mental health issues, I have learned through this you are loved and valued. Thank you for the continuous love and support buckeye nation."


A source close to Carton echoed to The Dispatch that the guard isn’t unhappy with the team or the program but that the decision was made in his own best interests at this time.


"D.J. remains a valued member of our program and we will continue to love and support him," coach Chris Holtmann said in a statement. "Please respect the family’s privacy in this matter."


The move is a significant loss for an Ohio State team that enters the weekend at 13-7 overall and 3-6 in Big Ten play. Carton, a former five-star prospect from Bettendorf, Iowa, is third on the team in scoring at 10.4 points per game, second in assists per game at 2.9 and fourth in minutes per game at 23.9.


Entering Thursday night’s games, he was the Big Ten’s leader among freshmen in assists, second in made three-pointers and third in scoring.


More than that, Carton brought an explosiveness to the game that Ohio State had not experienced since D’Angelo Russell’s lone season with the program. Holtmann has described Carton as having the quickest burst of any player he has coached, and the freshman has frequently found his way onto SportsCenter with his highlight-reel dunks.


Sunday night at Northwestern, Carton finished with a team-high 17 points and also finished with three assists, one turnover and an acrobatic alley-oop dunk to help seal the victory.


Without him, the Buckeyes have only three available scholarship guards: junior CJ Walker and sophomores Duane Washington Jr. and Luther Muhammad.


Carton’s departure is the latest in a series of blows to a season that had the Buckeyes ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation at one point. Senior Andre Wesson suffered a fractured eye socket in the season opener that cost him two games, and when he returned, his starting spot had been earned by strong play from Washington until the sophomore suffered an injury to the cartilage around one of his ribs that sidelined him for two games.


After Washington missed a game at Minnesota and then a home game against Southeast Missouri in mid-December, he returned for a win against Kentucky in Las Vegas. It would be a short-lived return to full health for the Buckeyes, however, as junior forward Kyle Young underwent an appendectomy on Dec. 29 after a loss to West Virginia in Cleveland.


Young then returned in a road loss at Indiana, having also missed two games, but one game later Muhammad and Washington were suspended for a home game against Nebraska for what was officially announced as a failure to meet team expectations.


Along the way, what had been an 11-1 start to the season tumbled to a 12-7 record that included a 2-6 mark in the Big Ten after Ohio State lost six of seven games. The Buckeyes took a step toward with Sunday’s win at Northwestern before entering a six-day stretch of prep work for the Hoosiers on Saturday.


Now they’ll have to make do without Carton.


ajardy@dispatch.com


@AdamJardy