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Commentary: The time was right for Jared Sullinger to go to the NBA

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

“You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.”

It doesn’t get much more cliché than that, and in general, the saying makes a lot of sense.

But I think Jared Sullinger is an exception.

I think Sullinger knew what he had all along.

Some would argue the former Buckeye big man waited a year too long to leave Ohio State and declare for the NBA.

From a financial standpoint, they’re probably right.

Sullinger was projected to be a top-5 pick by pretty much everyone who studied the NBA Draft last year. This year, a top-5 pick is out of the question, and while sneaking into the top 10 is still a possibility, Sullinger will most likely be taken somewhere in the middle of the first round.

So yes. Staying in school another year probably cost Sullinger hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But does that mean he made the wrong choice? Sullinger doesn’t think so.

He said he was “completely at peace” with his decision last year and has no regrets.

“You would love to play four years at a university that’s done so much for you,” Sullinger said. “Trying to build a legacy at The Ohio State University, one of the greatest universities in the world.”

“Stock really doesn’t mean too much for me at this point.”

It’s something Sullinger has said time and time again. He loves OSU and he loves Columbus. It’s where he’s spent the vast majority of his life, and he seems to have a genuine affection for the place.

The thing that struck me most about the Wednesday press conference in which Sullinger announced his decision was what he had to say about his conversation with former OSU guard Evan Turner.

“(Turner) said this is going to be the best time of my life,” Sullinger said. “You got to understand that when you get to the next level, it’s about a business.”

Translation: College is fun. The NBA is a lot of work.

In the CBS show “How I Met Your Mother,” one of my favorite episodes features what the characters called the hot/crazy scale.

The scale basically says that when dating a girl, she can be a certain level of crazy as long as she is correspondingly hot. The hotter the girl, the more crazy she’s allowed to be.

Sullinger was faced with a similar balancing act between having fun at OSU and ensuring he still had a successful future at the next level.

After Sullinger’s freshman year, he was still having a lot of fun and there was no indication his draft stock would fall.

Why not stay in college for another year and have fun? On the business/fun scale, the decision was clear. He should stay in school.

But this year, the scale shifted. Not only did Sullinger struggle on the court at times, but he faced injury concerns for the first time in his career.

The struggles took away from the fun and hurt the business.

When OSU advanced to the Final Four, the decision was clear.

Sullinger had his fun and could leave school, forever considered a winner.

It was the perfect time to go pro.

He might have lost more money than most of us will see in the next 10 years, but it’s not like he completely ruined his career. He’ll still make more money as an NBA player than most of us will see in 40 years.

He’s still a first-round pick, he can still have a successful career and he still had the time of his life at the university he knew he wanted to be a part of for as long as he can remember.

As Sullinger said, in a perfect world he could stay at OSU for four years, but staying wasn’t in his best interest. I’m sure he’s going to miss his college days during the grind of the NBA, but there won’t be any regrets for Sullinger. He already knew what he was leaving behind.

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