Mar 24, 2012, 11:24 PM EST
BOSTON – When Jared Sullinger signed on to play college basketball for Ohio State, he gave the Buckeyes a skilled big man; a frontcourt anchor who was a consensus top five player from the class of 2010.
Immediately the most talented player on the team, the humble and personable Sullinger did his best not to step on anybody’s toes.
“He blended in,” said Ohio State assistant coach Jeff Boals. “When he came in as a freshman, he followed, he listened, he didn’t have that superstar ego mentality, and that really set the tone for the whole year.”
As the season moved along it was clear that Sullinger was, in fact, one of the more talented college basketball back-to-the-basket players in recent memory, leading the Big Ten Conference in rebounding and finishing seventh in scoring.
So naturally, when Sullinger decided to return to college instead of declare for the NBA Draft, it raised more red flags than praise in basketball circles.
In his sophomore campaign, Sullinger by no means breezed through the competition.
He faced double teams, he faced a rough February, he even faced a three-headed green monster of Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Adreian Payne, and Derrick Nix that gave him fits — all which contributed to fairly similar numbers from his freshman season.
But he also led his team to the Final Four, and that is why he came back to Columbus for a second season.
You can say what you want about Jared Sullinger. You may think his decision to come back to school may have cost him money, may have hurt his NBA Draft stock, may have even changed the college basketball fan’s perception of how good he really was.
Whatever you think, don’t for a second think it bothers him.
If anything, it motivates him.
“I appreciate everyone that doubted this basketball team,” said Sullinger with a grin following tonight’s Elite Eight victory over Syracuse. “We heard negative comments, and I want to thank y’all because through all the adversity, we constantly pushed through that. I’m so proud of these guys.”
Despite foul trouble that forced the big man to sit out for 14 of the game’s first 20-minutes, Sullinger responded to score 15 of his 19 points in the second half to lead the Buckeyes to their 10th Final Four appearance in program history.
In the process, he was named East Region Most Outstanding Player.
Just like what we saw from him during a demanding schedule, Sullinger showed he’s someone you may be able to hold down for a period of time – someone you may be able to bend – but rarely can you do it for an entire game. The kid won’t break. He just grinds and goes to work down low until he gets what he wants.
“He’s taken a pounding all year, but he’s responded great,” said Boals. “Even in practice, we would purposely not call fouls to let him get beat on. There was a point in the season where he was getting frustrated and we sat him down and showed him a few things on tape. And ever since that, he’s taken off.”
So now with the regionals in the rear view, the Buckeyes must continue with their progression through the field of 68.
While the Final Four is an excellent accomplishment for this team, it by no means should feel like the end. This was a pre-season No. 3 team in both the AP and Coaches Poll. Many people would expect the Buckeyes to still be standing this late in the season.
“Hopefully, it’s not our last game,” said Sullinger. “We’re not going down to New Orleans for a vacation.”
“This is a business trip.”
Follow Nick Fasulo on Twitter @billyedelinSBN
Mar 6, 2015, 4:16 PM EST
Tyler Adams played in just four games as a freshman in 2011-12 before a heart ailment ended his playing career. He’ll be in the starting lineup Saturday when the Hoyas host Seton Hall.
Mar 6, 2015, 2:54 PM EST
Brown went 69-83 in five seasons at the helm at Holy Cross.
Reductions in scholarship, off-campus recruiting will have significant impact on Syracuse moving forward
Mar 6, 2015, 2:14 PM EST
Since they’ve signed for players for next season, Syracuse won’t begin the process of removing 12 scholarships over a four-year period until the 2016-17 season. But there’s still work to be done.
Mar 6, 2015, 12:35 PM EST
The basketball program will be on probation for the next five years, and they’re losing 12 scholarships over the next four seasons.
Mar 6, 2015, 12:20 PM EST
The Summit League will have one of the most entertaining tournaments, as always.
Mar 6, 2015, 11:29 AM EST
The Wisconsin freshmen have to dive for a loose ball off of the edge of the raised Williams Arena court as a rite of passage when the team plays at Minnesota.
Mar 6, 2015, 10:20 AM EST
Kentucky appears to be the only lock with less than two weeks to go before Selection Sunday.
Mar 6, 2015, 9:30 AM EST
The winner in Cambridge will be one win away from earning the Ivy League’s NCAA tournament berth.
Mar 6, 2015, 8:16 AM EST
All of this weekend’s hoops action.
Mar 6, 2015, 7:30 AM EST
The NCAA has yet to interview Cliff Alexander in regards to the case, with the report citing the family’s hiring of legal representation factoring into that.
Mar 6, 2015, 1:34 AM EST
All of the bubble winners and losers from Thursday.
Mar 5, 2015, 10:23 PM EST
No. 6 Wisconsin is the outright Big Ten champion, and Delaware State’s Kendall Gray went off for 33 points and 30 rebounds.
Mar 5, 2015, 8:34 PM EST
With the NBA and NBPA having different views on the limit, college basketball can only wait and see what happens.
Mar 5, 2015, 7:36 PM EST
The only sure thing at this point is that Perry Ellis won’t be on the floor when the Jayhawks visit No. 15 Oklahoma Saturday.
Mar 5, 2015, 6:44 PM EST
DVSport will handle the video replay technology, with Precision Timing Systems handling the timekeeping.
Mar 5, 2015, 5:38 PM EST
Patrick McCaw has been one of UNLV’s most consistent players this season, but he’ll have to miss Saturday’s game at San Jose State.
Mar 5, 2015, 4:56 PM EST
This situation seems certain to end up in a mess.
Mar 5, 2015, 4:13 PM EST
Both Wisconsin and No. 5 Arizona can wrap up outright conference titles with wins Thursday night.
Mar 5, 2015, 3:45 PM EST
I don’t think any Indiana fans are listening at this point.
Mar 5, 2015, 3:14 PM EST
Man, this is a serious blow.
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- NCAA sanctions Syracuse; 12 lost scholarships, nine-game suspension for coach Jim Boeheim 17
- Bracketology: No. 1 seed line remains unsettled 4
- Weekend Preview: Duke-Carolina Part Two, and which bubble teams have the most on the line? 1
- Bubble Banter: Davidson with a big win, Stanford in trouble, and … VCU? 2
- Justin Anderson out this weekend after undergoing appendectomy 0
- West Coast Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards 0
- College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25: How far will Wisconsin and Gonzaga fall? (26)
- NCAA sanctions Syracuse; 12 lost scholarships, nine-game suspension for coach Jim Boeheim (17)
- You Make the Call: Was Texas guard Isaiah Taylor fouled on this drive? (16)
- Mike Krzyzewski refuses comment on Rasheed Sulaimon sexual assault allegations (11)
- Bracketology: Villanova takes ahold of the fourth No. 1 seed (9)