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Ohio State basketball: Freshman stepping away from team

COLUMBUS, OHIO - NOVEMBER 22: D.J. Carton #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes brings the ball up the court in the game against the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons during the second half at Value City Arena on November 22, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OHIO - NOVEMBER 22: D.J. Carton #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes brings the ball up the court in the game against the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons during the second half at Value City Arena on November 22, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Credit: Justin Casterline

Credit: Justin Casterline

The Ohio State basketball team has had another rough January.

Heading into February, the Buckeyes will be without one of their most important players as he deals with something bigger than a game.

Freshman point guard D.J. Carton announced Thursday night he needs a mental break from the team.

“After talking to my family, teammates and coaches I have decided it is best at this time to temporarily step away from the Ohio State basketball program,” Carton wrote in a message posted on Twitter. “In making this decision I felt it was important to be transparent as to why I’m taking this break. I have been suffering with mental health issues for a couple of years I have been through a lot. I’m disappointed to say I’m not 100% right now. I am not doing my teammates justice if I don’t work on this now.

“I am doing everything in my power to strengthen my mental health. I will fight for my team and Buckeye nation and I will come back stronger! If you are going through mental health issues, I have learned through this you are loved and valued. Thank you for the continuous love and support Buckeye Nation,” he wrote with a “heart” emoji at the end.

“Please respect my decision and my privacy,” he added with the hashtags, “#gobucks” and “buyckeyeforever.”

Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann released a statement in support of Carton’s decision.

“D.J. remains a valued member of our program and we will continue to love and support him,” Holtmann said. “Please respect the family’s privacy in this matter.”

How long Carton might be out has not been addressed, though an Ohio State release indicated he will miss the Buckeyes’ home game against Indiana at noon Saturday.

Ohio State began the season with high expectations, in no small part because of a highly regarded recruiting class headlined by Carton, a four-star point guard from Bettendorf, Iowa.

The Buckeyes started 9-0 and were 11-1 heading into a Dec. 29 game against West Virginia.

They lost that one 67-59 and went 2-5 in January to enter February tied with Michigan for 11th in the Big Ten.

Mental health has become an increasingly talked about topic in society in recent years, particularly with young people and in sports.

At Ohio State, football coach Ryan Day and his wife Christina have put their name to a fund for pediatric and adolescent mental wellness at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus. 

>>RELATED: Day makes positive first impression with area coachesHow Urban Meyer’s recruiting compared to predecessorsCincinnati football team helps in tornado recovery in Dayton 

Ohio State defense tackle Robert "BB" Landers, a Wayne High School graduate, also inserted himself into the discussion over the past two years when he opened up about his own mental health struggles.

» LOOKING BACK: Landers leading on and off the field for Buckeyes

By Monday morning, Carton’s tweet already had over 21,000 likes, and numerous people identifying themselves as fans of other Big Ten schools had chimed in with replies expressing their support.