Sullinger is graduating to NBA career
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jared Sullinger's decision, which we all figured was coming, didn't hit any real snags this week.
It does, however, contradict the first rule of the house he grew up in.
"If you're going to be Barbara Sullinger's son," Barbara Sullinger said Wednesday, "then you have to get a college degree."
Her youngest son still plans to abide by the rule. But, as of Wednesday, Jared Sullinger is headed to the NBA Draft.
Sullinger made it official, with his family and Ohio State coach Thad Matta by his side during a news conference. A first-team All-American in both seasons he played at his hometown school, Sullinger helped the Buckeyes to 65 victories and an appearance in this year's Final Four.
He averaged 17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds in 74 career college games. And when he sat down to talk with his family this week, he said he realized it was time to go.
"Last year I felt completely at peace with my decision to come back," Sullinger said. "I also feel completely at peace this year with deciding to go to the NBA.
"This decision is right for me."
Sullinger, who spent just two years playing for the Buckeyes, grew up 10 minutes from campus and committed to play at Ohio State early in his high school career. He admitted it won't be easy to leave Columbus but said helping the Buckeyes overcome a February slump to win a share of the Big Ten Conference title and advance to the Final Four gives him a sense of completion.
"I've dreamed of this since I was a little kid watching Michael Jordan," he said.
The 6-foot-9, 269-pound Sullinger is a surefire first-round pick and a likely lottery selection. He'll have to prove he can score against taller, more athletic players in the NBA, but he brings natural scoring and rebounding ability and a high basketball IQ.
Matta called Sullinger "one of the most intellectual players I've ever coached" and compared him to David West, whom Matta coached at Xavier.
"I'm going to miss Jared as a player, but I'm going to miss him more as a person on a daily basis," Matta said. "There's no doubt in my mind he's ready."
Sullinger said he wanted to make his decision and withdraw from classes quickly so Ohio State's program wouldn't run the risk of being negatively affected by the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate standards. He figures to be busy for the rest of spring quarter hiring an agent, conducting predraft workouts and visiting with teams.
"My mom made me look her in the eye and promise her I'd get a degree," Sullinger said. "I will be in classes soon."
Mom, by the way, is fine with putting the degree on hold.
"This is what he needs to do right now," Barbara Sullinger said. "This is the best thing for him."