The Ohio State men’s basketball team will make its lone trip of the season to Iowa on Thursday, but D.J. Carton will not be making a surprise return to the lineup.
The freshman guard and native of Bettendorf, Iowa, has missed the past five games while taking an indefinite leave of absence to address what he has described as mental health issues.
On Wednesday afternoon, as the No. 25 Buckeyes prepared to face the No. 20 Hawkeyes, coach Chris Holtmann dismissed the notion that Carton could either play or attend the game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"No," Holtmann said. "I think there’s a lot that has to happen before that’s even in the conversation medically and in terms of overall health. That’s not even been a consideration."
Carton, the team’s third-leading scorer on the season, has been in Iowa since he announced Jan. 30 that he was stepping away from the team. He averaged 10.4 points in 20 games, including three starts, shooting 47.7% from the floor and 40% from three-point range. He was named Big Ten freshman of the week on Dec. 23.
Carton has been able to continue his academics while away, and he posted a message on SnapChat saying he would be "back with the gang Friday." But Holtmann said a potential return to the Buckeyes would involve multiple steps and would not be as simple as just arriving on campus and putting on his No. 3 jersey.
Holtmann also referenced the fact that six games remain in the regular season.
"I’m hopeful that we can get him on a path towards improved health," Holtmann said. "That’s the only priority. Obviously we’re late in the season, and you can draw your own conclusions from that. It’s late in the year, and he’s been away for a while. If and when he returns, when you leave for medical reasons there’s a lot that goes into being in any way acclimated back into any type of organized activity.
"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. It’s pretty extensive. That’s about as much as I can say on that."