The lower-body injury that kept Justice Sueing out of Monday’s game could keep him on the sideline for quite some time.
Following the Buckeyes’ 89-58 win over Bowling Green, Chris Holtmann said Sueing, who missed Monday night’s game, does not have a timetable for returning to the court. Holtmann said he “doesn’t know that it’s season-ending,” but he also “doesn’t know what to make” of the situation yet.
“No real word on him right now, other than he had to be evaluated,” Holtmann said. “He was not able to play, did not feel that he was gonna be able to play. So we sent him to a specialist in Cleveland. Productive meeting, but what plan moving forward we’re gonna have and if he’s gonna play Thursday, all those questions kind of remain open-ended.”
The injury is not a new one for the Ohio State captain. Sueing was hampered during last year’s postseason by a leg issue that required maintenance on the sideline during games, and he spent the offseason recovering from it.
Holtmann said Monday that Sueing thought he had made a full recovery until the Buckeyes played a closed scrimmage against Ole Miss toward the end of October.
“It had gotten better, considerably better, almost to 100 percent, in his words,” Holtmann said. “And then really right before the Ole Miss scrimmage he started to feel some of the same issues. Managing it really since then.”
Sueing was held out of the Buckeyes’ Nov. 1 scrimmage against Indianapolis due to the injury, but returned to play in the season opener against Akron last week. Sueing looked somewhat out of sorts, coming off the bench to shoot just 1-for-7 from the floor.
Sueing showed signs of improvement during the following game. Against Niagara last Friday, the California native scored 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting and pulled down four rebounds in 16 minutes of action.
While it seemed a step in the right direction for the Buckeye veteran, Sueing appears to have subsequently suffered a setback, which leaves Ohio State without a player who was expected to be one of its top players this season.
Along with Sueing, sixth-year forward Seth Towns is out for Ohio State after suffering a herniated disc in his back during the offseason. Towns is expected to return some time in December. Fifth-year forward Kyle Young missed the season opener for the Buckeyes due to a vestibular dysfunction, but has played off the bench in each of the past two games.
“I’m not gonna minimize the importance of Justice or Justice’s health to this team,” Holtmann said. “We certainly anticipated a healthy Justice to start the season, and I think planned around all of what he could give us. He’s unique, because there’s not another Justice-type player on our roster that has the ability at his size to play downhill and guard multiple positions. I’m hopeful and optimistic that we can have him and Seth back. Kyle’s fine now. He’s still working his way back conditioning-wise, but we really need those guys back.
"We know Seth’s timetable. I don’t know Justice’s timetable. But to say it’s not a significant hit, it wouldn’t be honest. It is.”
Sueing was the Buckeyes’ third-leading scorer and rebounder a season ago, averaging 10.7 points and 5.5 boards per game. Holtmann said before the start of this year that Sueing could be a “primary playmaker” for Ohio State in the absence of Duane Washington.
“I’m disappointed for him, I’m disappointed for our team, because it’s going to be hard for us to reach our potential without certainly one of our best players,” Holtmann said. “I believe he’s going to return, I just don’t know when that is. I’m disappointed for Justice, because I know how badly he wants to be out there.”
True freshman guard Malaki Branham has started the past two games for Ohio State at shooting guard, and senior Justin Ahrens has started all three games this season at small forward. Eugene Brown is another player that could see more minutes in Sueing’s absence, and the second-year wing had a season-high 12 points on Monday.
Holtmann said the Buckeyes will explore all options, although he remains hopeful Sueing will be back at some point this season.
“You’ve got to move forward. We’ve got guys that are more than capable, we’re gonna coach those guys, we’re gonna get them ready,” Holtmann said. “We’re gonna move forward, we’re gonna hope that our medical staff gets Justice ready to go whenever he’s ready.”