Sullinger: It’s Said and Done Now
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jared Sullinger can finally get back to playing basketball and being a kid.
Photo by Dan Harker
After more than a month of speculation on whether Sullinger would actually return to Ohio State after his big rookie season, the National Freshman of the Year is relieved to finally make his decision official.
“It feels good because a lot of people ask me questions about if I’m going or if I’m staying,” Sullinger said after throwing at the first pitch at Ohio State’s home baseball game against Michigan Saturday.
“It’s said and done now. Now I can walk out and just live my life.”
Considered to be one of the top prospects for the upcoming NBA draft, Sullinger surprised many when announced he would return for his sophomore season following Ohio State’s crushing loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
It was a great gesture by Sullinger after so many of Thad Matta’s top recruits have bolted Columbus after just one season, but not everyone was taking him at his word. Few players have passed up a chance to be a top 10 pick in the draft, which is certainly where Sullinger was expected to go.
Even point guard Mike Conley Jr. opted to turn pro after his impressive tournament performance in 2007, but Sullinger says he never thought twice about changing his mind before the deadline, which passed Sunday night.
“It’s not a doubt that where I want to be is Ohio State,” the 6-9 power forward said of his decision to stay in school for another year.
“Coach Matta’s skill development and all our coaches just help us out, and also this team. This team is something special, just the way we carry ourselves on and off the court.”
Sullinger knew he was a part of something special from the moment he arrived at Ohio State. With veterans like David Lighty, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale and William Buford already in place, the Buckeyes had huge expectations last season.
They lived up to almost every one of them, winning the regular season and tournament championships in the Big Ten before bowing out in the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row. Sullinger doesn’t think often of that loss, but he did keep a souvenir to motivate him throughout the off-season.
“I still have the key card from the Newark hotel we stayed at, so that’s all that matters,” Sullinger said.
Even with Sullinger back, the Buckeyes will have some major retooling to do before next season. They lose three players who played a lot of minutes in their careers, particularly Lighty and Diebler. They have another solid recruiting class coming in, but the return of Sullinger and William Buford, who opted to stay for his senior season, give Matta his two leading scorers from a year ago.
“We want to win,” Sullinger said.
“We want to win. One game at a time and we’re going to keep it going throughout the season.”
That mindset worked for them a year ago, and the Buckeyes could be even better next season with a more mature, more developed Sullinger leading the way.
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