Sullinger Leaves Winning Legacy At OSU
By Ben Axelrod
COLUMBUS, Ohio — From the footwork that will make him a first round pick to the boards of the Big Ten, Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger controlled plenty during his two years of college basketball.
Photo by Jim Davidson
One thing that now former Buckeye big man knows he can’t control, however, is his legacy.
“That’s something that you guys have to determine as media,” Sullinger said when asked how he’ll be remembered as a Buckeye.
“Whatever y’all say, I go by.”
Just hours removed from Sullinger’s Wednesday afternoon announcement that he will forgo his remaining two years of eligibility to enter the NBA Draft, it’s too early to gain a consensus on just what the Columbus native’s legacy will be, but his numbers do work in his favor.
After just two seasons, the two-time All-American will leave Columbus as OSU’s No. 29 all-time scorer (1,282 points) and No. 11 all-time rebounder (717). Only two Buckeyes—Jerry Lucas and Michael Redd—have ever scored more points in their first two seasons at OSU.
Perhaps just as important as the 17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game that Sullinger averaged from 2010-12 was what the Buckeyes accomplished with him as their leading-scorer and rebounder. Sullinger’s two teams at OSU collectively earned a 65-11 record—the best two year stretch in program history—and combined for pair of Big Ten championships, a Big Ten Tournament title, two Sweet 16 appearances, and a trip to the 2012 Final Four.
Having known Jared since his brother, J.J., played for him from 2004-06, OSU coach Thad Matta said that those are the accolades that will help define his leading scorer and rebounder over the past two seasons.
“The biggest attribute that Jared Sullinger has is he’s a winner,” Matta said.
“That’s something that I’ve learned throughout the process, I don’t care if it’s high school, college, the NBA; when you get a guy who cares about winning, you’re going to be successful.”
Asked about his winning ways and being a part of the two combined winningest years in program history, Sullinger deferred credit to the teammates who often referred to as “brothers” for the past two seasons.
“You really can’t say it’s all about me. Without my teammates none of this would be possible, without the coaching staff or the university,” Sullinger said.
“My teammates and my coaches, we really put in the hard work and we just did a lot to work on building a legacy here and hopefully it will carry on to next year.”
A Columbus-native who committed to his hometown school after his freshman year of high school, it’s hard to rank exactly where Sullinger fits in when ranking OSU players of the Matta era.
He wasn’t the recruit that put OSU back on the national map like Greg Oden was, and unlike Evan Turner, he’ll walk away from Columbus without a National Player of the Year or even Big Ten Player of the Year trophy.
Matta said that because of the Sullinger family’s close relationship to the OSU program, it’s hard to limit Jared’s contributions to just his two seasons wearing No. 0 for the scarlet and gray.
“The impact he has made on this program, not only in just the two years he was here, but his high school career and all the things that he’s done,” Matta said.
“He spent two years here, but with J.J. here and the time he’s been around this program, it literally feels like I’ve coached him more than two years. The hardest part is you develop a friendship with the guy. I’m going to miss Jared the player, but I’m going to miss him more as a person on a daily basis.”