No one was shocked when Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger announced Wednesday that he will turn pro after two seasons in Columbus. He’s ready. In fact, some felt Sullinger was ready after his freshman season, when he averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds for a team that won the Big Ten and entered the NCAA tourney as the No. 1 overall seed. Alas, the Buckeyes lost in the Sweet 16 to Kentucky.
But the 6-9, 265-pound Columbus native returned for his sophomore campaign, saying he wanted to win a national title. Sullinger didn’t disappoint by averaging 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds for another Big Ten champion team. But Ohio State came up short in its quest for its first national title since 1960, though Sullinger helped lead the No. 2-seed Buckeyes to the Final Four for the first time since 2007.
Could Sullinger, who has a 17.3-point and 9.7-rebound career averages, be the first pick in the 2012 NBA draft? Probably not. In fact, he looks like a fringe lottery pick at best.
ESPN NBA draft analyst Chad Ford has Sullinger going No. 12, behind fellow big men like Kentucky’s Anthony Davis (1st), Kansas’ Thomas Robinson (3rd), UConn’s Andre Drummond (5th), Indiana’s Cody Zeller (8th), North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller (10th) and Baylor’s Perry Jones (11th).
Of course, Cody Zeller hasn’t declared for the draft; and some think he won’t. Still, Sullinger figures to be hard-pressed to be a top-10 pick. But, he’s probably making the right decision to leave with two seasons of eligibility.
“He stayed to work on his face-up game,” BTN basketball analyst Dave Miller said. “I think it was a good move. I don’t know how he will translate, but he’s gonna be in the first 15 picks and he’s gonna get paid. I would have gone.”
Sullinger has a high basketball IQ, soft hands, a deft touch around the hoop and a strong base to anchor in the paint. He’s also a hard worker who plays with a defensive edge and strength.
But he needs to improve his play facing the basket. Sullinger also is perceived to have heavy feet, and some wonder if he hasn’t already reached his ceiling as a player. How much better can he get? Also, how will Sullinger—who is compared by some to Paul Millsap and Kevin Love–fare guarding taller and more skilled big men? And is Sullinger’s back OK after it caused him to miss two games this season?
“He’s an Elton Brand- or Paul Millsap-type, a mix of the two,” Miller said. “When I look at Sully, I think he’s the best back-to-the-basket post player I saw last year. He gets deep post-ups and has a strong lower body. He knows angles and reads defenses as good as any player in college basketball.”
Ohio State must move on. In addition to losing Sullinger, the Buckeyes also will lose forward William Buford, the only senior. And don’t forget: sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas is thinking of going pro. If he bolts, it will be a big blow, as he’s a proficient scorer.
But Ohio State coach Thad Matta can count on point man Aaron Craft; big men Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel; guards Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith, Jr., and Sam Thompson, among others in 2012-13. But there are no major recruits slated to arrive in the fall.
Will Ohio State be a contender for another Big Ten title? Yes, but the Buckeyes, along with Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin—who all appear in most early Top 25s for next season–figure to be chasing Indiana for the crown next season.
Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. You can subscribe to the Daily Links RSS here, find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow him on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his overall RSS feed.