Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For Jared Sullinger, another taste of glory at Ohio State was too much to pass up

Jared Sullinger says he is used to criticism: “I could care less what people say. … I’m living my life,” he says.

Associated Press

Jared Sullinger says he is used to criticism: “I could care less what people say. … I’m living my life,” he says.


Jared Sullinger is a star. Currently, he is on a big stage. He is one step away from validation, two away from vindication.

How much would you pay for that?

His is the face of Ohio State basketball. The hope, too. He is an All-American, again. He is a force, still.

And what's the price tag on that?

How much for another year? How much for putting the NBA on hold? How much for spring afternoons on campus for college games or big games against the Big Ten or a run through the NCAA Tournament? How much for a trip to the Final Four?

In a way, Sullinger got off cheap. It only cost him, oh, $5 million or so.

The sophomore could be rich by now, you know. He could be in the NBA, with Cleveland, maybe Toronto, where the money would be good and the expectations would be kinder. Most analysts seem to agree that if Sullinger had entered last year's NBA draft, he would have been a top-five pick, which pretty much turns a guy's life into parties and parades. Given the risk of injury, who says no to that?

Sullinger, for one.

"I wanted to make a statement that not everyone is using college basketball as a pit stop to go to the next level," Sullinger said Friday. "There is more than money and endorsements. There's championships that you have to win at every level. I've won a championship all the way from elementary (school) to now. I pride myself on winning. That's why I came back."

And here he is. After uneven moments, after unrealistic expectations, after constant criticism, after good moments and bad, Sullinger and his Buckeyes still have a chance to cut another set of nets.

Financially, there will be some who will always question Sullinger's decision. Who walks away from millions? But he wouldn't have the huge Mardi Gras beads around his neck. He wouldn't have been able to reach over and tickle the back of teammate William Buford's neck during an interview. He wouldn't have … this.

"It's helped him enjoy one of the greatest times of his life," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "College is college. It's fun. There's not a person in this room who wouldn't beg to go back to college.

"I think he's put a stamp on this program. He's going to be known as one of the all-time greatest players to wear the scarlet and gray."

For Ohio State to win, Sullinger needs to be great. More to the point, he has to be the best player on the floor against Kansas today, then against either Kentucky or Louisville on Monday night.

That's a lot to ask, because Kansas has Thomas Robinson, who Sullinger says should be the college player of the year, and Kentucky has Anthony Davis, who is the college player of the year.

For Sullinger, those have always been the expectations. As good as he has been for the Buckeyes, there are those who thought the 20-year-old from Columbus should've been better.

"I'm used to it," Sullinger said. "When you have your father telling you at an early age that you were going to be the best, and people doubt you, it's just more motivation to become who you want to become and prove everyone wrong.

"I could care less what people say. If you look at the attention I've gotten this year compared to last year, it's two different things. Last year, we had a knockdown shooter in Jon Diebler, which meant I didn't get doubled as much. It's two different dynamics. I'm living my life. If their life is dissecting me, then by all means, keep living."

At best, it has been an uneven year for Sullinger. He had back problems in December — he missed the game when Ohio State lost by 11 to Kansas — and foot problems in January. The officiating frustrated him.

Suddenly, the world seemed to fall out of love with Sullinger. Critics began to wonder if he could jump enough to play inside, if he could handle the ball well enough to play on the wing, once he got to the NBA. Instead of talking top five, the talk was about top 10. Maybe.

Ah, but have you watched Sullinger lately? In the NCAA Tournament he has had 18 points against Gonzaga, 23 against Cincinnati, 19 against Syracuse. Finally, he is the player college basketball expected him to be all along.

"I really appreciate when he's in a groove on the defensive end of the floor," teammate Aaron Craft said. "But that doesn't happen too often. So I really cherish those moments."

Craft grinned.

"I'm just kidding. He's done a great job. I think the best times when he's in a groove is when you're not noticing. The end of the game you're like, 'Wow, when did he score 26 points?' That's happened the last few games."

For Sullinger, the money can wait. The NBA, too. There is plenty of time for all of that. He has a decade to make a lot of money.

On the other hand, they are giving away a trophy on Monday night.

How much do you think guys in the NBA would pay to win that?

For Jared Sullinger, another taste of glory at Ohio State was too much to pass up 03/30/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 30, 2012 8:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.
  2. Quarterback Jameis Winston will start Sunday for the Bucs


    TAMPA — Jameis Winston hadn't thrown in practice since he injured his right shoulder in Sunday's loss at Arizona, and with that uncertainty, a wide line of TV cameras and reporters' cellphones were all out Friday morning, recording the moment as Winston tested his shoulder with his first throws early in …

    Despite a sore shoulder, Jameis Winston will be making his 38th consecutive start since being drafted first overall in 2015.
  3. Bucs journal: LB Kwon Alexander ready to return from injury


    TAMPA — LB Kwon Alexander, sidelined by a hamstring injury since the second quarter of the Bucs' season opener against Chicago, will finally make a healthy return Sunday against the Bills.

    Linebacker Kwon Alexander needs “to get my stats back up” after being out since the opener.
  4. A rare treat Saturday for Rowdies: a home playoff game


    ST. PETERSBURG — Rowdies fans, set to be rewarded with their first home playoff match in five years, can also take a little credit for it.

    From left, Georgi Hristov, Joe Cole and Marcel Schafer are among the Rowdies’ top scorers.
  5. Why it's too early to give up on the Bucs


    Don't panic. It's not too late for the Bucs.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) and wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrate after the defense recovered a fumble during the second half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times