When Ohio State’s season ended in last year’s Sweet 16, Jared Sullinger was emphatic about his future. This year, not so much.
The Buckeyes sophomore center didn’t make any speculation about his NBA draft prospects after Saturday night’s 64-62 loss to Kansas in the Final Four. That’ll be for the next few days.
“I honestly don’t know,” Sullinger said. “That’s something I’m going to take up with coach (Thad Matta) and just talk it over with him and my family.”
He’ll have to hurry, though.
NBA prospects used to have a few weeks before they had to decide whether to stay in the NBA draft or return for another college season. The NCAA’s new withdrawal deadline – it’s April 10 – kills that in the worst possible way. Now Sullinger must digest the loss and decide his Ohio State future in the next week.
He’s still projected as a lottery pick, though his 5-for-19 shooting night can’t have helped his draft stock too much. Does the idea of facing more 7-footers like Kansas’ Jeff Withey on a regular basis appeal to Sullinger?
Or will the desire to have another shot at the Final Four and an NCAA title win out? It probably depends on long the bitter the loss lingers.
“It’s still tough just like last year, but we got further,” Sullinger said. “We got to the point where we were one of the last four teams standings. Only the best team basketball teams in the country play here. We took a loss. It hurts. You look around and these guys are really, really hurt, and that hurts me.”
He could conceivably boost his draft stock with a dynamic junior season, but it’s unlikely he’d ever be the No. 1 overall pick. Not as a 6-9 center. That’s not what the NBA wants.
But a 6-9 center in college? He could win a title. Or he could start his pro career. Just depends on what Sullinger wants to do most. And I don’t think either one would be wrong.
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