When is 'very soon' for Seth Towns? Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann isn't sure

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State Buckeyes forward Seth Towns (31) passes basketballs during warmups before the game against UMass Lowell River Hawks at Covelli Center in Columbus, Ohio on November 29, 2020.

It took two words to work up one rabid fanbase.

Monday morning, Ohio State graduate transfer Seth Towns posted a pair of photos to his personal Twitter page with a caption simply reading “very soon”. It was enough to send the rumor mill into overdrive concerning the status of the Harvard graduate and Columbus Northland product who has missed the last two seasons with knee issues and is working toward playing for this season’s Ohio State team.

Since undergoing surgery last January, Towns has been progressing with an eye on playing during this calendar year. Tuesday afternoon, one day before the No. 23 Buckeyes were set to host Morehead State at the Covelli Center, coach Chris Holtmann didn’t offer a definitive timeline for when Towns will be in uniform because he said the fifth-year player hasn’t done enough live action work in practice to provide one.

“The biggest thing for Seth is making sure that physically he’s ready to go through live game action, which he’s been somewhat limited at that,” Holtmann said. “He’s making progress. What that looks like in terms of when he could play, it’s something we’re evaluating on a day-to-day basis.”

Towns joined the Buckeyes during the spring, opting to return home and play for his childhood favorite school despite Duke and other schools expressing interest in him as a graduate transfer. Since then, his status has been a constant point of discussion for the Buckeyes. The 6-8, 230-pound forward was the Ivy League’s player of the year in 2017-18, when he averaged 16.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game for the Crimson.

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He came to the Buckeyes with two years of eligibility, and actually could have three after the NCAA awarded an extra year to all winter sport athletes playing their seasons in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since joining the program, Towns has made steady progress but has only recently started taking part in some full-action practice work. The team's official game notes state that Towns is "not expected to return to action until 2021."

“He’ll have to work his way into shape and sharpening his skills and his ability to move and defend,” Holtmann said. “Offensively, even though he’ll have to shake some rust off there, he’s a really gifted offensive player. Defensively is where he’s going to have to really continue to grow and get more confident in his ability to move and his knee and his conditioning.”

Holtmann said he doesn’t have a comparison point as far as working with a player who has missed such a lengthy period of time. That will be an adjustment on top of the fact that he’ll go from playing at Harvard to the Big Ten, where he will face bigger, more athletic opponents on a nightly basis.

Those reasons are likely why, when he appeared on a national podcast during the summer, Towns promised Ohio State fans that they would see how much playing for the program means to him rather than promising any type of production or statistical impact.

“I do think everybody has to understand he’s not the same player or athlete right now he was his sophomore year at Harvard,” Holtmann said. “That’s too much to expect given a young man that’s come off of two years. He’s really worked hard to get back to this point. I think he feels a great amount of satisfaction in getting back in the conversation of playing again, but to expect that kind of production right now is unrealistic.”

Towns will get back to the form he showed as a sophomore eventually, Holtmann said. He’s just not sure when.

“We haven’t honestly seen him enough in live action to where I could even begin to speculate on when that will happen,” the coach said. “It’s hard to give a timeline on when he could get back to that because we haven’t been able to see enough. Is it the end of this year? Next year? I don’t know, but no question in my mind he can get back to that.”