Four days after Harvard graduate transfer Seth Towns most recently stepped onto a court to play college basketball, Ohio State topped South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA tournament behind 20-point games from Keita Bates-Diop, CJ Jackson and Kam Williams. Only one player in that game – Musa Jallow, who had zero points in seven minutes – remains on the Buckeyes’ roster.
CJ Walker spoke last offseason about the difficulties of sitting out, desperate to get back to the court after sitting out following his move from Florida State to Ohio State. He mentioned in October how he hadn’t played in “500-something days.” Between his final game as a Seminole and first game as a Buckeye, Walker waited 592 days.
Already, Towns has spent 825 days on the sideline. When he suits up as a Buckeye for the first time for the Nov. 11 season opener against Oakland, he will have waited 976 days since the 2018 Ivy League championship game when he suffered a knee injury.
“It's just been a weird, long road to recovery,” Towns told Eleven Warriors earlier this week.
Initially, he didn’t have an operation to heal his knee. But two months later once what was thought to be a bone bruise was revealed to be a cartilage injury, he had surgery. It didn’t heal as expected, though, so Towns had another surgery earlier this year for what he says is a cartilage defect.
“It's hard to say just because this is such a weird thing, process. By the season is kind of, like, no question. It's just about staying patient.”– Seth Towns on a targeted return date
In February, he told the Washington Post that doctors said he “should be able to go full-bore” by June. However, he says he’s not fully healthy and is continuing his rehab.
“I'm still working toward it,” Towns said. “I'm making the best progress that I've ever seen in these two years. I'm doing things that I haven't been able to do in two years. I'm obviously very confident that it's going to come back, but I'm also so just happy and overjoyed by the progress that I've made.”
He says he’s been able to do things he hadn’t since prior to his injury.
One recent example of progress? He began to do a one-leg squat on an eight-inch box for the first time since early 2018.
“Those small goals that I'm achieving, it's really fun and any person who's gone through a serious injury and returned from it can speak to that,” Towns said. “Small goals are so important, but you love them so much.”
Towns said he does not have any targeted dates for a return to 100 percent health. He will join the Buckeyes for voluntary workouts that begin on Monday.
“It's hard to say just because this is such a weird thing, process,” Towns said. “By the season is kind of, like, no question. It's just about staying patient.”
Once fully healthy, Towns will have a chance to serve as one of the Buckeyes’ top scorers and all-around forward. The 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward earned Ivy League Player of the Year honors for the 2017-18 season when he averaged 16 points and 5.7 rebounds. A knockdown outside shooter, he hit 41.9 percent of his shots from the field and 44.1 percent of 3-pointers as a sophomore that year.
However, as Chris Holtmann mentioned during a video chat with Ohio State’s Sports and Society Initiative, it could take time to get him back to playing at peak ability as a Buckeye.
“I think there's going to have to be some patience on his part, on our part, probably on our fans' part about how quickly he can return to the Seth of his sophomore year where he was the Player of the Year in the Ivy League,” Holtmann said last week.
Luckily for both Towns and Ohio State, there are 151 days remaining until the season tips off.