Sullinger Doesn’t Regret Extra Year At OSU
As it stands today, you won’t see Jared Sullinger much higher than pick #6 on most mock drafts, with the Ohio State power forward generally falling somewhere between there and the latter portion of the lottery, but at last week’s combine in Chicago all anyone could talk about in regards to Sullinger was where he might have been picked had he entered the draft last summer instead.
For those that have forgotten, Sullinger was projected as a top-three pick a year ago before withdrawing his name from consideration to play another year at Ohio State. Despite that fact, Sullinger said he has no regrets about his decision.
“It helped me out big-time maturity-wise,” he told HOOPSWORLD. “I’m focused, and there’s certain things that I didn’t do my freshman year that I learned how to do my sophomore year—eating habits, getting my body into shape, a lot of those things. That’s why I was so blessed to come back my sophomore year.”
And while it’s easy to criticize Sullinger for forgoing the NBA last season, at the time there was no guarantee that there would even be an NBA season because of the impending lockout. So even though Sullinger would’ve earned more than $4 million extra in his first three seasons as the #3 pick than he would as the #9 pick, the risk for him didn’t outweigh the certainty of another year of the college experience and a guaranteed season of further development and competition at OSU.
Now, he’s finally in the draft, trying to prove to teams he’s got enough to still have value as a high first-round selection.
“People said I wasn’t going to be able to play at the college level, and I did. Some people said I wasn’t going to be able to play at the high school level. Some people said I was too overweight to play at the middle school level,” Sullinger said about his constant criticisms.
“Can I play defense? Can I jump?” Sullinger asked rhetorically, repeating the kinds of questions he’s heard about himself for years. “Will I be able to play the four? Am I a five? Can I shoot the basketball? Will I be able to guard the four? It’s multiple questions that people are going to ask.”
However, Sullinger can also rattle off a list of skills that have some NBA teams drooling, and it’s that skillset that could make him one of the steals of the draft: “Ball handling, shooting ability, the ability to take someone off the dribble, actually have the ability to make a post move,” Sullinger said, adding, “I’ve been doubled most of my college career, so I’ve learned how to score with the ball on the block.”
It’s that last skill that sets him apart from so many of the other big men in this class, and he knows it. That’s why he’s been compared early on to some very good NBA players.
“Everybody [compares me to] Elton Brand. It could be Glen Davis, everybody thinks I’m him. Kevin Love,” Sullinger said. “I get so many different basketball players, but I think I’m different because I like to play back to the basket. I love to play back to the basket, but I can face up and shoot the jumpshot, as well. It’s all about pick your poison with me, so it doesn’t matter who they compare me to because I just want to be myself.”
Brand might be the most common, and perhaps most accurate, comparison, but if that’s where Sullinger ends up, he’ll be happy with that. So will the team that drafts him.
“Elton Brand was 6’8”, and people said he couldn’t jump. People said he wouldn’t be able to adjust to the NBA, and all of a sudden he’s an All-Star getting max contracts. He developed a jumpshot and started putting up 20 and 10 some years.”
It’s not outlandish to believe Sullinger could be that kind of player, as well. He’s a confident, charismatic young man from a great basketball program, so some sort of NBA success is expected. He’s might not be a top three pick anymore, but that doesn’t mean he won’t play like one.