Adam Jardy, Columbus Dispatch
Published 3:53 p.m. ET March 19, 2020 | Updated 3:59 p.m. ET March 19, 2020
Ohio State freshman guard D.J. Carton has announced his decision to leave the program and enter the transfer portal.
“Buckeye Nation, I first want to say thank you to all the Ohio State fans who supported me during the difficult times I went through this year,” he said in a note posted to Twitter. “I also want to thank the university, my teammates, the coaches and all of the staff who went above and beyond to help my family and me this year.
“After some careful thought and consideration, I have decided to make a fresh start and enter the transfer portal. I wish Coach Holtmann and my teammates the best of luck next year. Please respect my decision.”
LOVE THIS PLACE…❤️ thank you for everything buckeye nation! pic.twitter.com/buWtEkCaWO
— DJ Carton (@DJCarton) March 19, 2020
Carton arrived at Ohio State as the highest-rated player to sign to play for coach Chris Holtmann. He was a four-star prospect, the No. 34 national recruit, the top prospect from Iowa and the nation’s No. 4 point guard.
He picked the Buckeyes from a final three that also included Michigan and Indiana.
Carton finished the season as the team’s No. 3 overall scorer, averaging 10.4 points in 20 games including three starts, numbers that don’t include some of the most explosive dunks of the season. As the season continued, however, Carton’s turnovers continued to mount, topping out with seven in a loss at Indiana, and the coaching staff began the process of moving him off the ball more to try and allow him to be more reactive rather than force him into a decision-making role.
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It seemed to get both Carton and the Buckeyes back on track, and he responded with a 17-point effort in a road win against Northwestern on Jan. 26 that saw him finish with three assists and just one turnover in 21 minutes.
But four days later, the program announced that Carton was stepping away from the team to address his own mental health issues. At the time, the Buckeyes were 13-7 overall and 3-6 in Big Ten play.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Carton said he was not doing his teammates justice if he didn’t immediately work on his mental health.
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“I am doing everything in my power to strengthen my mental health,” he wrote. “I will fight for my team and buckeye nation and I will come back stronger!
Love my team and Ohio❤️ pic.twitter.com/Sjb3C9sZbJ
— DJ Carton (@DJCarton) January 31, 2020
Carton then returned to his hometown of Bettendorf, Iowa, where he continued classes online. In his first press conference following Carton’s departure, Holtmann offered a full-throated defense of Carton and attacked those with “antiquated thinking” who criticized the freshman and his team.
As for those who cast doubt about Carton’s actions, Holtmann closed his comments with this: “I can’t be more emphatic about that thinking and how damaging that can be, damaging to players, damaging to coaches and we’re always going to be about the player. That’s the bottom line.”
His absence was described as being for an indefinite amount of time. He returned to Ohio State on Feb. 20, the day the Buckeyes were playing Iowa in his home state, but he was not allowed to return to team activities until he passed through an extensive medical protocol determined by the team’s medical staff.
Carton never returned to action. He had already been ruled out of the Big Ten tournament before it was canceled, and it was unlikely that he would have been cleared to return in time for the NCAA tournament.
“We 100% support D.J. in this decision and we genuinely wish him all the best moving forward,” Holtmann said in a statement. “We appreciate all he contributed to our program. We will assist him in any way we can.”
Without him, the Buckeyes have four guards on the roster for next season: senior CJ Walker and juniors Musa Jallow, Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington Jr. His departure also puts the Buckeyes at the roster maximum for next season.