Mark Znidar
Mark Znidar

Mark Znidar comes to Press Pros Magazine after 33 ½ years at The Columbus Dispatch. From 1996 until September 2018, he staffed high school sports, Ohio colleges that included the Mid-American Conference, Ohio State’s upcoming opponents in football and Ohio State baseball. In the previous three seasons he covered the Columbus Clippers triple-A baseball team. His other beats were Ohio State basketball (1985-88), Clippers (1985-86 and 1989-93), Cincinnati Bengals (1993-95) and NASCAR (1994-2008). He subbed on the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ohio State women’s basketball beats. In March 2017, Znidar was inducted into the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.  Znidar was born in Cleveland and raised in Richmond Heights. He graduated from Cleveland St. Joseph High School and the University of Dayton. He also worked for The Atlantic City Press, Lake County News-Herald and Baltimore News-American. He has a daughter, Amanda, son-in-law Josh and four grandchildren.

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Buckeye point guard enters transfer portal after part of one season with Buckeyes…probably as a life choice rather than an attempt to get to the NBA faster…Coach Chris Holtmann must scramble for a replacement.

Columbus – It would be interesting to see what kind of response DJ Carton got from Ohio State people if he ever returned to play basketball at The Schott wearing the traveling uniform of another university.

The people who buy the tickets, make mad dashes to Conrad’s to purchase the newest Buckeye apparel, and whose days are good or bad based on how their favorite team did the previous day, had to be jolted when he decided to transfer.

Carton’s message on Twitter on Thursday was thanks for the memories, best wishes, and I will see you later.

Veteran columnist Mark Znidar writes the Buckeyes for Press Pros Magazine.com.

Fans saw and heard how coach Chris Holtmann, the players, and administration backed the freshman point guard to the hilt when he took an indefinite leave of absence on January 30 to tend to his mental health.

Holtmann got more than a few snarky and downright cruel Tweets and comments on other social media directed at him for backing Carton. Some said that Carton was soft and should just suck it up and play ball. Like a father protecting his children, the coach rightfully went after those people hiding behind faceless and nameless handles.

A lot more fans completely understood the situation.

The part that has to grate people who supported Carton is that he’s entering the transfer portal in order to get a “fresh start” with his career and, more importantly, life.

In the end Ohio State simply was not DJ Carton’s school of choice.  Buckeye fans have to live with that.

How could the kid walk away from the Buckeyes? His mother said he would return better than ever. The family talked about how much support their son received.

Well, it’s just not going to be at Ohio State. Live with it.

This corner says Carton cannot be criticized for this move. It’s not as if he found himself at the end of the bench or in running arguments with Holtmann and teammates. He has some real problems that go beyond the game, and nobody should dare play amateur psychiatrist here.

The media is limited to talking to Carton for a couple minutes when he’s behind a microphone on a riser, but it sure looked like he was comfortable wearing scarlet and gray. He often talked about what good guys he played with. He had so much support living hundreds of miles from his hometown of Bettendorf, Iowa.

There could have been basketball issues had he stayed with no guarantee that he’d play much at the point with senior-to-be CJ Walker becoming the No. 1 assist-to-turnover player in the Big Ten.

Ohio State would not have won nine of its last 12 games had Walker not become this clean ballhandler, passer and clutch shooter in the paint when he was needed most.

Even before Carton took his leave, Holtmann talked about moving him off the ball to take the pressure off. But running the show is what he was bred to be.

Carton was a four-star recruit, and so many experts said he had the stuff to leave college ball for the NBA after one season. His vertical leap has to be at least 40 inches, and he explodes off the floor. Few are as fast with the ball.

After his 20th and last game for the Buckeyes, a 17-point effort in a victory at Northwestern, Carton looked far from being a hot professional prospect with his body of work.

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Maybe that could have been a turnaround game for him, but he was ineffective the previous four games. During that stretch he had seven turnovers at Indiana, shot 4-for-12 against Nebraska and 3-for-9 at Penn State and played 20 largely invisible minutes against Minnesota in scoring eight points. He had difficulty guarding the Gophers Marcus Carr, but then everybody does.

It should be noted that Arizona freshman point guard Nico Mannion also had a terrible time with turnovers right up until the threat of the coronavirus pandemic closed down the college game.

Mannion was surrounded by a cast of the team’s usual big-time talent and could play through his mistakes. In no way, shape or form could the PAC-12 be compared with the Big Ten, which was far and away the best league in the country. Think about it: Carton played against Cassius Winston, Zavier Simpson, Wisconsin’s D’Mitrik Trice, Anthony Cowan and the aforementioned Carr in conference games. Indiana’s Rob Phinesee is no star, but he’s pretty good.

Carton, though, has more ability than all of them. Maybe he would have settled in next season. If that was the case, he would have been a handful no matter what guard spot he played.

The human aspect also is the main reason Carton should give it a try somewhere else. No matter how much the program and university did for him or would have continued to do for him, campus still was a place where his mental health broke down.

Could one imagine some of his darkest moments?

And the teenager was taking classes and playing in front of some of the largest crowds in the nation through all of this. He had to be open for business all of the time like a 24-hour Wal-Mart.

Senior-to-be CJ Walker returns as the only true point guard on the Buckeyes’ roster.

The team that lands Carton will have something of a first-round draft choice on its hands, only with almost a full season of Division I experience. At the same time, the new coach always will go to bed wondering whether this player will have more difficulty with his mental health.

This appears to be a life choice, and more power to him. He wants a reset and it’s would only be fair if the NCAA waives the one-year sitting out period because of his story.

Where does that leave Ohio State?

Walker is the only true point guard on the roster. Duane Washington often moved from off guard to the point to provide a different look and give Walker a rest. Early on, he would drive the lane and not look for the kick-out or hoist a shot from the perimeter early in the shot clock. That’s what he is – a scorer.

Washington was slowly getting better and better reads and almost always a positive on the floor. He is a gamer in every sense and loves having the ball in his hands.

Yet a team must consider injuries, having quality practices and the future roster. Another qualified body at the point is imperative.

Should freshman forward Alonzo Gaffney transfer – he played for three high schools – and Kaleb Wesson turn pro, Holtmann would have two scholarships available.

It’s difficult to believe that Wesson would give away his final season of college eligibility banking that he might be picked late in the second round of the NBA draft or not at all. Second round picks do not receive guaranteed contracts.

In no way is he first round material. But he might have been told by scouts that he might not be one after next season.

The COVID-19 pandemic also has left the NBA wondering when it will be able to begin workouts and interviews with potential draftees. Does Adam Silver move the draft back? What if that draft falls in July or August?

Wesson and many others are in limbo. But it’s expected that he will leave in betting that he’ll go in the second round.

Ohio State is holding its breath that native son Seth Towns, a 6-foot-7 forward from Harvard by way of Columbus Northland High School, signs as a graduate transfer. Duke reportedly is on his short list. He would have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

At this point, the high school market has been picked clean of every type of player, center, forward and guard. A transfer would be risky in that Holtmann would be banking on the NCAA making that player eligible immediately.

Could Holtmann tap the junior college ranks? Ohio State and Big Ten teams in general just don’t go that way much.

The Buckeyes had the plug pulled on their interesting season when the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments were cancelled, but the coaching staff will be running something of a fast break figuring out its roster for 2020-21.

It appears that 6-foot-9 freshman Alonzo Gaffney is turning professional after a season in which he averaged 6.7 minutes and did not play in seven of the last eight games. He was bothered by a bout with the flu and had a knee injury, but did not dress the final four games for undisclosed reasons.

Gaffney, a native of Cleveland, always has been a man on the move. He played for three high schools. He was rated the No. 50 prospect national as a senior at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. At one time he was rated a five-star prospect.

A lot of his problems had to center on weighing 198 pounds. He reportedly had difficulty playing in the paint, with walk-on Harrison Hookfin being able to push him away from the basket.

The Buckeyes had plenty of three-point shooters, and that appeared to be his only strength.

 

The McKinley Funeral Home of Lucasville, Ohio, proudly supports Ohio State Buckeye baseball on Press Pros.

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