Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann doesn't rule out Seth Towns against Alabama A&M

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State forward Seth Towns passes basketballs during warm-ups for a game against UMass Lowell on Sunday.

A little bit of sacrifice and a whole lot of hard work could pay off for No. 23 Ohio State on multiple fronts Saturday.

Assuming negative COVID-19 tests from both the Buckeyes and visiting opponent Alabama A&M, Ohio State will be a perfect 4 for 4 in playing nonconference games against teams hailing from four states. In the current world of college basketball, it’s no small feat.

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And if the game takes place at Value City Arena, a much-anticipated player could be making his debut. Before Friday’s practice, coach Chris Holtmann told The Dispatch that Seth Towns could make his Ohio State debut.

“We’ll see how he is in practice (Friday) and shoot-around (Saturday),” Holtmann said. “Is it possible he could play (Saturday night)? It is. We just want to evaluate how he is after this day and a half here.”

On Monday, Towns posted a message to Twitter featuring two photos of himself in his Ohio State uniform and the caption “very soon”. On Tuesday, Holtmann said Towns was making progress but said he couldn’t give a timeline for when he would be on the court or back to the form that saw him earn Ivy League player of the year honors while playing for Harvard in 2017-18.

Since then, the Northland product has missed the past two seasons because of knee injuries. He signed with the Buckeyes as a graduate transfer during the offseason, picking his hometown school and childhood favorite over Duke and a host of others after undergoing knee surgery in January.

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On Wednesday, Towns was in uniform and went through most of pregame warm-ups while reporters were present but was not active for a 77-44 win against Morehead State. When fully healthy, he is expected to be a major contributor on this year’s team as a versatile forward whose shooting ability can help stretch opposing defenses. Getting there will still take some time, but getting game action is a vital step.

“It’s really when he feels most confident in his knee and his health and when we’ve seen him go through some consistent, live practice,” Holtmann said. “I think he feels more confident in his knee, but he has to feel confident enough to play in games and obviously we have to feel like he can come in and help us. It wasn’t one specific game we were pointing to at all, it’s more or less when does he get to that point.”

It could be against a Bulldogs team that has played just one game to this point, a 78-76 win at Sanford on Sunday. In successfully scheduling and safely playing games against Illinois State, UMass Lowell and Morehead State, Holtmann said a greater level of communication has been needed to ensure things could move forward.

Halftime of Saturday’s game will mark the midpoint of Ohio State’s seven-game nonconference schedule.

“The teams we’ve played have had good communication and good regular testing, but there’s also probably some good fortune with that right now where you’re three for three,” Holtmann said. “You’re grateful for it. You look around and see cancellations. I’d love to be able to get through the entire nonconference and for that matter the entire season without cancellations, but I think that’s a very slim chance that happens.”

Fourth-year junior guard Musa Jallow is out as he deals with a lower-leg injury, Holtmann said. Jallow played in the season opener against Illinois State but has not played since. He missed last season while recovering from reconstructive surgery on his right ankle.

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Ohio State vs. Alabama A&M

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)