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Commentary: Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger isn’t what we thought

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

Maybe Jared Sullinger isn’t who we thought he was.

Maybe Ohio State’s sophomore big man is a square peg we’ve tried to put in a round hole.

Sullinger is obviously an exceptional basketball player. He’s proven over his past two years at OSU that he is among the best forwards in all of college basketball and was named a first-team All-American in the 2010-11 season.

Because he’s been so productive and his teams have been so successful, he’s been anointed a superstar.

But I think that’s a misnomer.

I think Sullinger’s reputation has exceeded his ability.

He’s playing the part of a superstar in a role player’s body.

Let’s look at what makes Sullinger so good. His offensive fundamentals are phenomenal. He has a repertoire of inside post moves to give himself space and top-notch touch around the basket.

He has a big sturdy frame and is strong enough to overpower most defenders off the block (although some would argue Sullinger’s weight loss hampered this ability).

He has a high motor and passes well out of the post.

Those are great attributes, but the typical superstar has a little bit more.

In addition to refined skill, superstars have elite athleticism, explosiveness and the ability to make plays when everything else in a game is crumbling.

Sullinger doesn’t have those qualities.

Before almost every home game, sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. and sophomore forward J.D. Weatherspoon have a dunk contest. They do windmills, tomahawks, bank balls off the backboard and even come close to converting between-the-legs dunks.

Before OSU lost to Wisconsin Feb. 26, Sullinger decided to make a brief cameo in the competition.

Sullinger ran in from the 3-point line and attempted a windmill dunk. The 6-foot-9 man unimpressively leapt from the ground and missed the dunk. Badly.

The fact is Sullinger just isn’t that athletic and doesn’t have the height to make up for it.

During games, when things are crumbling for OSU, the team looks for Sullinger to make plays. OSU feeds him the ball inside, but Sullinger hasn’t been able to convert.

He’ll catch the ball and try to make a move, but when a double team or quality defender arrives, he either flops for a foul or forces a bad shot.

Sullinger is in no way a bad player. He’s just not what we’ve made him out to be.

Monday, Sullinger was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for his performances against Michigan State and Northwestern.

He totaled 36 points and 28 rebounds in the two last two Buckeye wins and proved he can be dominant.

He was named first team all-conference and as the Buckeyes head into postseason play, Sullinger’s play will dictate OSU’s success.

Maybe Sullinger will prove me wrong. Maybe he’ll dominate the Big Ten Tournament and lead OSU on a deep run in the Big Dance.

But Sullinger and the Buckeyes need to be realistic.

The Buckeye big man is the best and worst thing OSU has going for them.

He has more skill than anyone on the team, but if he overextends himself and tries to be what something he’s not, it spells trouble for the Buckeyes.

Sullinger is no role player, but he’s no superstar either.

To be successful, OSU and Sullinger will have to find the middle ground.

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