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Column: Seth Towns deserves to end his collegiate career on a high note

Forget all the negative Nancy’s — Land-Grant Holy Land is excited for Towns’ final go-round.

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

On the surface I see, hear, and understand why some Ohio State fans were ready for Seth Towns — who was born and raised in Columbus — to move on from college basketball. Over two seasons at Ohio State, he has played in a total of 25 games — and all of those games came during the 2020-2021 season. The 6-foot-8, 230-pound graduate of Northland High School overcame a vicious knee injury at the end of the 2018 season and returned to the floor in 2020, scoring just under four points per game.

Last season Towns underwent back surgery in the fall and planned on returning in January for the final three months of the season, but he did not progress as quickly as planned and didn’t play a single game. Towns was not in a brace or unable to move, as we saw him knock down consecutive three-pointers several times during warm-ups, as well as jumping around with the team celebrating after wins. He’s not a broken man, he just was not well enough to get on the court.

Down the stretch run last season, Chris Holtmann repeatedly told the media that he was “actively recruiting both Towns and Justice Sueing to return for one more season.” The motivation to get Sueing back on board was obvious — he’s a versatile wing capable of playing several positions and — aside from this past season — has not had any type of injury history to be concerned about. As long as he’s healthy, he will contribute in a major way.

But Towns... that one is a bit murkier. He’s played in 25 total collegiate basketball games over the past four seasons. He’s had major surgeries on his knee and his back, and he’s just 24 years old (old for a college basketball player, but pretty damn young for someone to have been under the knife that much already). Even during that 2020-2021 season where he averaged 3.8 points per game, he wasn’t truly “healthy.” His knee was not fully recovered, and at times was playing on one leg. So really, the man has not been completely healthy in nearly five years.

What then, people asked, is the point of inviting him to return for a seventh year of college basketball? What is the upside? Why waste everyone’s time? He still has eligibility left, but why wouldn’t Holtmann gently “nudge” him out the door, like football does with players from time to time?

Well, aside from the basketball skills and knowledge Towns possesses from being around college basketball for over a half-decade, he’s a Columbus kid. He’s a lifelong Ohio State fan. Life’s knocked him down more times than you can count, and he’s trying to stand up and finish the fight. Seth Towns deserves to write the final chapter of his story the way he wants it to be written — not the way bitter fans on the internet or any other doubters want it written.

Nothing is certain about what Towns’ production will be this season, nor is his health. His lower body allegedly feels, “better than it’s ever felt” and he continues to work his way back from the back surgery he underwent last fall. The former Ivy League Player of the Year showed flashes of his playmaking ability two seasons ago, albeit in small samples.

Towns has an old man’s game — he loves to utilize the glass on everything within 10 feet, backs down defenders near the free throw line and hammers away until he’s on the block, and utilizes plenty of shot fakes and post-hooks below the basket. He’s got a few tools in the toolbox that we simply don’t see in college basketball much these days. He averaged 14.2 points and five rebounds per game over two seasons at Harvard from 2016-2018. He’s a 40.7% career-three-point shooter and an 81% free throw shooter. Towns has an intriguing combo of size and shooting to offer, so long as he’s healthy — which, again, will always be a question mark.

Is it possible that Towns misses the entire season with his existing back injury, or suffers another one and misses substantial time? Yep. Could Ohio State potentially have used their final scholarship on a transfer who is a safer bet to contribute, and gently told Seth that he was no longer welcome? They could have, but as we’ve learned, that’s not really how Chris Holtmann or his staff operate. When they tell recruits “you’re part of the family” it’s not just a tactic to get kids on board. Pardon my french, but they mean that shit.

Towns grew up in central Ohio. He said that he had Ohio State posters on his bedroom walls growing up and that meeting David Lighty when he was younger was one of the coolest experiences he can recall as a kid. When the opportunity arose two years ago to come back to Columbus, he jumped at it. And if Seth Towns did not think that he was going to be healthy enough to play basketball this year, why would he waste his time coming back at age 24? The man has one degree from Harvard and a second from Ohio State — the job market will be just fine to him when that day comes. Seth Towns truly believes that he is going to contribute on the 2022-2023 Ohio State men’s basketball team.

So, who are we — the fans — to tell him to buzz off? The man can ball — he has the record, stats, and hardware to prove it. If he’s healthy and is confident that he’s going to contribute, we should all be rooting for him. Plus, no team is going 13-deep come February anyway. If the worst possible situation manifests itself and Towns does not play another minute, odds are Ohio State was not — is not — banking on him being a vital scorer on this team. Anything he can give will be a big bonus.

And he deserves the opportunity to show that there’s still some gas left in the tank.