Seth Towns: In his eighth season of college basketball, 26 year-old is headed back to March Madness

There is not a player in college basketball quite like Seth Towns.

Now 26 years old, Towns is a Harvard graduate who has already stepped away from basketball once in the past and is an extremely rare eighth-year senior after a collegiate career derailed by injuries.

For comparison, five-time All-Star Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics is currently playing his seventh NBA season after being drafted in 2017, but is four months younger than Towns.

Now at Howard University in Washington D.C., Towns is heading back to March Madness after the Bison beat Delaware State 70-67 on Saturday to win a second-straight Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title and punch their ticket to the tournament.

It has been a remarkable journey for the Ohio native, who only returned to the court for the current season having been sidelined since the 2020-21 campaign.

Towns – a six-foot-nine small forward – began his college career with Harvard in 2016, averaging 12.3 points per game, before his scoring leapt to 16 points per game while shooting 44% from three-point range as a sophomore the following season.

He was named Ivy League Player of the Year in 2018 and seemingly a future in the NBA was potentially on the horizon.

Towns was a college standout at Harvard. - Mingo Nesmith/AP
Towns was a college standout at Harvard. - Mingo Nesmith/AP

Unfortunately for Towns, he suffered a knee injury that saw him miss his entire junior season before undergoing knee surgery in December 2019 that ended his senior year before it had even begun and brought his promising Harvard career to a halt.

Towns graduated from Harvard the following year and entered the NCAA transfer portal. He eventually committed to Ohio State as a graduate transfer for what would technically be his junior season after receiving medical redshirts for the campaigns that he missed due to injury.

He described the decision as returning “home” on social media at the time.

“Eternally grateful this opportunity and cannot wait to fight for the city of Columbus—the city I call home,” Towns wrote on X, formerly Twitter, in March 2020. “This means everything to me, from the bottom of my heart.”

Towns then averaged 3.8 points in the 2020-21 season as the Buckeyes earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

However, Towns was hit by injury again and, forced to undergo back surgery, sat out the entirety of his redshirt senior year.

He was expected to return for the 2022-23 campaign but announced in September 2022 that he was stepping away from Ohio State due to mounting health concerns.

“After a few setbacks this summer and some tough conversations with my coaches and medical personnel, it has become clear that my body is not in a position to endure a full Big Ten season,” he said on Instagram.

“I share with many of you the frustration of not having been able to compete at the level I am capable of, or at least something close to it.”

Towns' time at Ohio State was cut short. - Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters
Towns' time at Ohio State was cut short. - Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Towns knew that this step could mark the end of his basketball career.

“I knew that it was possible that it was over for good. I also knew it was possible it wasn’t,” Towns told ESPN. “It was a step away from Ohio State and maybe a step away from basketball. I wasn’t sure. It was definitely really tough having to meet that kind of reality.”

After spending his year off, during which he weighed up his future in the sport, Towns entered the transfer portal again in May 2023 and committed to Howard.

Despite being his eighth year at the college level, the current season is only Towns’ fourth where he has actually taken to the court. And coming into the season, he had only played in 25 games – none of them as a starter – in the previous three years.

Thankfully for Towns, he was able to start afresh at Howard as one of college basketball’s most unique players. The 26-year-old is averaging 14.2 points per game and helped the Bison secure a berth in the NCAA tournament, marking his first appearance at the Big Dance since 2021.

“If all things are equal and he doesn’t have injuries, he’s in his fourth or fifth year in the NBA. And yet he’s fighting and scratching and clawing his ass off every day for us at Howard,” Bison coach Kenny Blakeney told ESPN.

Towns and Howard will take on the Wagner Seahawks in the First Four on Tuesday. The winner of that game will face No. 1 seed North Carolina in the round of 64.

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