In DJ Carton’s Buckeye debut this past Wednesday, the Ohio State freshman point guard showcased his entire repertoire.
He pushed the ball as much as he could, immediately calling for it following defensive rebounds. Carton would turn his head up court and get running.
When he was in the half court, he made safe, solid passes where they needed to go, and he also hit shots when they presented themselves.
He looked comfortable in every situation, but it was clear that he excelled when it came to the transition game. He not only pushed it for teammates, but also for himself, ending in several dunks for the 6-foot-1 leaper.
Carton scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, hitting his only 3-point attempt, grabbed two rebounds, two steals, and handed out a team-high five assists in Wednesday night’s exhibition game against Division II Cedarville University.
His ability to make things happen with the push is the major reason why head coach Chris Holtmann has told him to speed it up whenever the situation arrives.
“Every time really. Every time I get the ball I’m going to push it because I know that that’s one of my strengths,” Carton said after the game. “And I know like tonight, sometimes the defense was insane and I know we can get easy buckets like that, so every time I do get the ball in position to push, I’m going to do that. And hopefully I can clean things up in the half court and be able to control the offense a little better.”
Asking a true freshman to keep the offense going full speed as much as possible can be a dangerous proposition, which is why Holtmann and his staff will work to keep Carton somewhat grounded in terms of when, where, and against whom.
“I think it’s apparent, he’s explosive in transition,” Holtmann said after the Cedarville game. “Now, some of that, I think time will tell, right? You have to be aware of the floor was broken at times and maybe the competition level and I think we’ll say that to him. It’s gonna be hard for him to get some of those plays that he got tonight, but I thought his decision making was good.”
That decision making was readily seen in the half court as well. Carton threw precise passes down in the paint to Buckeye post player Kaleb Wesson. Some were even thrown over outstretched defenders, leading to an easy basket for Wesson.
After the game, Carton also displayed the kind of humility a coach likes to see in a freshman.
“Kaleb is a special player and I don’t want to take too much credit just because it’s easy to get Kaleb the ball,” Carton said. “But I think we’ve had a really good connection and he works hard to get open and I kind of just do the easy thing and get him the ball. But we definitely have a good connection there. Have a good relationship. He’s kind of a big brother. He teaches me a lot of things on and off the court. And I think we’re really good at communicating with each other, what we see on the court and stuff like that.”
Being that Kaleb Wesson is Ohio State’s main man in terms of scoring and rebounding, having a two-man game as effective as this one could be is essential in a conference as deep and talented as the Big Ten.
And with how plentiful the defenses are, finding transition opportunities won’t be as easily found as they are out of conference. For that reason alone, Holtmann appreciated the way Carton found Wesson in scoring positions in the half court as much as he liked what he saw in transition.
“Our fans are going to love those kinds of plays around the rim, and I get that,” Holtmann said. “But maybe equally as important for us is just those kinds of plays [in the half court].”
The season begins for real this coming Wednesday against the University of Cincinnati, and in that game DJ Carton will get to show what he can do, as well as what he learned in his exhibition debut.
If the game against Cedarville was any clue, Buckeye fans are going to love Carton — and at any speed.