Jared Sullinger scored 554 points and collected 279 rebounds during his senior year at Northland High School. He also weighed 290 pounds.
“I kind of knew coming into Ohio State I was going to have to drop weight for the style of play coach (Thad) Matta plays,” the 6-foot, 9-inch Sullinger said.
He did just that, cutting 20 pounds before his first game as a Buckeye on Nov. 12. Sullinger’s weight now fluctuates between 265 and 270 pounds, he said.
Dropping the weight had nothing to do with a change in diet but “was all exercise,” Sullinger said.
His workout regime is largely left to the discretion of associate strength and conditioning coach Dave Richardson.
“Coach Rich is the man who gets us in shape and gets our bodies right for the season,” senior guard David Lighty said. “It’s up to him, and he’s the man who got us to where we are right now.”
The Buckeyes are 6-0 and Sullinger is averaging 14.5 points and 9.3 rebounds a game.
Sullinger attributes his success so far to the ramped-up training.
“With the sand pit running and the miles … we run, it was like a piece of cake out there” on the court, Sullinger said.
Besides the runs and sand pit work, the players run stairs at the Schottenstein Center to prepare for the season, Lighty said.
Sullinger also said his defensive stance has been more consistent because of his work on technique in the sand pit, he said.
Despite the improvement on that side of the ball, Matta still expects more.
“There’s still another gear in him on the defensive side that we got to work on,” Matta said.
Though he knows the hard work isn’t over, Sullinger said Matta is relatively happy with his conditioning.
“He’s been confident enough to play me down the stretch when the game gets tough,” Sullinger said. “Last game (against Florida State), he played me 36 minutes, which I was really surprised because it was a really up-and-down game.”
Though he is happy with his weight, Sullinger said it has always been an issue.
“It’s been all my life,” he said. “I’ve always been a heavyset kid.”
Matta has also been aware of the issue for a long time. The first time he told Sullinger to lose weight, “he was at a camp in fifth grade,” he said, laughing.
Joking aside, Matta is not too concerned about Sullinger’s weight, but rather his ability to play in the system.
“If he’s at 270 (pounds) and is physically in shape and can play at the speed and pace we want to play at, I’m fine with it,” Matta said.
Although he has been productive on the court, Sullinger knows his conditioning must get better.
“If you’re not losing weight,” he said, “you’re really not working hard.”