Injured Sullinger making most of Big Ten tourney trip

If Jared Sullinger had his way, he’d be nowhere near the United Center this week. Thing is, the Ohio State product was sent to the Big Ten tourney by the Boston Celtics, his current employer. Sullinger, a first-round pick in last year’s NBA draft, underwent season-ending back surgery last month, and while he’s recovering, the Celtics decided to send him to Chicago to test his basketball IQ, if you will.

“I’m out here scouting,” Sullinger said. “That’s not a joke. I got sent here to do some scouting – just to test my knowledge.”

Considering his ties to the Big Ten and all of his rooting interests at this tournament, he’d probably be in Chicago anyway.

After all, Sullinger got to watch two of his former AAU teammates, Michigan’s Trey Burke and Wisconsin’s Traevon Jackson, battle against each other Friday afternoon. Later in the day, he checked out his Buckeyes taking on Nebraska.

“It’s good, it’s cool,” Sullinger said about being at the Big Ten tourney. “I came here to support everybody, so it’s a lot of fun.”

But who was the former Buckeye rooting for in Wisconsin’s win over Michigan?

“I hope they all play well,” he said. “I root for Traevon (Jackson) to do well, Trey (Burke) to do well and the Buckeyes. There’s just a little bit of love everywhere.

“But, honestly, I don’t want to be here.”

Makes sense. Sullinger should be enjoying a playoff season with the Celtics. He played in 45 games, the last on Jan. 31, and was starting to improve upon his averages of six points, 5.9 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game when back spasms cut his season short.

Frustrations aside, Sullinger enjoyed his rookie season.

“It was a blessing,” he said. “Forty-five games, starting to get into the NBA game, and then I get hurt. Hopefully, next year I’ll have better luck.”

On the topic of next year, Sullinger, as expected, offered glowing remarks on his main scouting target, Burke, who is expected to enter the 2013 NBA Draft.

“A great point guard, a great point guard that can score,” Sullinger said. “He knows the game. That separates him from other guys – he knows what to do, what not to do. He has great range, NBA 3-point range. He’s going to be a great prospect, especially with this being one of the weakest NBA drafts.”

About Brent Yarina BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina covers football and men’s basketball for BTN.com. He writes the popular uniform feature “Clothes Call,” which also focuses on the latest cosmetic changes across Big Ten arenas and stadiums. Read all of his work here. You can subscribe to Yarina’s RSS feed and follow him on Twitter @BTNBrentYarina.

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