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Column: Write off Seth Towns at your own risk

Towns has already overcome quite a bit to simply check into a game for the Buckeyes. Let’s not close the book on him quite yet.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 12 Big Ten Tournament - Ohio State v Purdue Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I read an article last week from another website in the Ohio State blogosphere/basketball beat, titled “It’s time to give up on Seth Towns.” My first reaction to this, naturally, was a big fat middle finger. And my second thought, after doing some very simple math, was, “why?”

If you didn’t hear, it was announced last week that Towns — a Columbus native who played his first season with Ohio State last year after transferring from Harvard — will soon undergo back surgery, but is expected to recover completely. The timeline for his return is 3-4 months, according to Ohio State’s athletic department.

Three months would get Towns back in mid-December, and he would miss roughly 10 games — about 13 of the season. If he comes back closer to the four-month mark, he’d miss closer to 23 of the season, and a large chunk of conference play. So even if Towns returns at the earliest possible time, it’s going to be an awkward re-introduction to the team, their rotations, and the general chemistry of the squad with Ohio State having already played a sizable chunk of the season without him.

When Towns returns, he won’t come back as the Seth Towns of old that we saw take over games at Harvard. He is 23 years old now, and after knee and back surgeries it just isn’t going to happen. Even the most optimistic person can see that Towns’ best basketball is behind him. But writing him off completely, or “giving up” on the 23-year old super senior from Columbus would be a grave mistake.

Speaking strictly in basketball terms, this is not a surgery that should keep Towns out for the entire season. The Big Ten Tournament Championship would wrap almost exactly six months from today, and according to every report I've seen from both the athletic department and the team itself, they fully expect him to recover in three or four months.

Towns can still contribute, too. When he returns in December, Chris Holtmann will not put him in a game just so that we can all “feel good” that he made it back. Towns will only see the floor if he can actually contribute and help this team win. At 6-foot-8 and almost 240 pounds, Towns has proven that not only is he a solid rebounder off the bench (he grabbed five, seven, and six in Ohio State’s final three games of the season), he also has a butter-smooth jumper that he especially likes to knock down off the glass.

It was sporadic and at times it looked like he was playing at about 60%, but Towns still scored in double figures five times last season, including Ohio State’s overtime win against Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal. He’s never looked like he’s been completely “free” on the court, but there were times last season when he shot the basketball and his teammates just started jogging the other way —they knew it was in. We all knew.

Aside from what he’s still got in the tank on the floor, Towns has overcome a hell of a lot just to get back to basketball. It’s been well documented, but for those who don’t know, Towns endured a vicious knee injury in March of 2018 (while playing for Harvard) that required knee surgery and kept him out of basketball for over two years. After 1,000+ days of rest and rehab, Towns checked in for his hometown Buckeyes on Dec. 19 against UCLA. He played two minutes in that contest, but that day marked the date he officially came out of that long, dark tunnel that is rehabbing a nasty lower body injury.

As someone who has also dealt with leg injuries/surgery myself, there are days when you wonder if you’ll ever be able to do the same things you were able to do before. Even when the doctors and your family reassure you that you’ll be “better in no time,” it’s still hard to believe when you’re on crutches for weeks and weeks on end. Will I be able to run or jump like I did before? Can I put any weight on my leg? Can I trust it to do everything it did before?

Extrapolate that doubt and fear over two years, and that is what Towns went through just to try and check back into a game, let alone play at a high level again. Simply stepping on the court was a feat all in itself. Are we really going to doubt him when he says he’ll return from (what sounds like) a fairly simple back procedure?

Towns has dealt with adversity off the court as well. In December — just two weeks before he made his Ohio State debut— Towns’ childhood friend Casey Goodson was shot and killed by a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy. Conflicting reports were published in the days following the shooting, with witnesses saying that Goodson was entering a property with food in his arms. Officers claim that Goodson “waved a weapon at them” and then the gunfire happened. Goodson was shot in the back several times and died laying in the doorway of his home.

During the national anthem of Ohio State’s next game — a road matchup with Notre Dame on Dec. 8, which they won — Towns took a knee. He later posted a photo of himself during the anthem with the simple caption “Justice for Casey Goodson.”

Between his near career-ending knee injury, the rehabilitation that followed, and the tragedy he endured in his personal life last year, Towns has battled through a hell of a lot to keep playing the game he loves. It will not be an easy road back — he may never be a star for his hometown school he grew up cheering for — but Seth Towns will be back.

When he’s ready and able, there will be a spot waiting for him on this Ohio State basketball team. So no, I will not “give up on Seth Towns.” Nor should anyone else. Because what’s one more hill to climb for someone who’s already scaled mountains just to get here?