When top-seeded Ohio State lost to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA Tournament, Jared Sullinger didn’t hesitate to immediately share his decision to return for his sophomore season with the media.
Moments after the second-seeded Buckeyes’ 64-62 loss to No. 2 Kansas in the Final Four Saturday night, Sullinger was asked the same question about his NBA plans. This time, though, the All-America big man didn’t have a definitive answer.
“I don’t know yet,” Sullinger responded when asked about his plans. “I have to sit down with my family and talk to my coaches and from there make a decision. But I definitely don’t have a decision made at this point right now.”
The circumstances are different this year. The Buckeyes (31-8) saw its season end again with a loss, but this time the team had advanced to New Orleans to play on college basketball’s biggest stage.
While Sullinger certainly wanted to help Ohio State achieve its first national title since 1960, he admitted the he was proud of what the team was able to accomplish. Whether he’ll come back again for another NCAA Tournament run is to be determined.
“We made it to the Final Four with guys that you made a bond with that can’t be broken,” Sullinger said, reflecting on Ohio State’s year. “It is still tough, but we got a lot farther. Only the best basketball teams play here. We took a loss, and that hurts."
Questions about Sullinger’s future in the NBA linger, especially with his size. He stands 6-9 and sometimes struggles with taller, longer defenders like Kansas’ 7-foot big man Jeff Withey.
In the loss to the Jayhawks, Sullinger finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, but he made only 5-of-19 shots from the floor and Withey finished the game with seven blocks.
Some argue Sullinger could use another year in college to help develop his complete game. Others suggest that he’s not going to grow anymore and what he has brought to Ohio State is close to his fully developed repertoire of basketball skills.
Those are all things Sullinger plans on discussing with Ohio State coach Thad Matta and his family before coming to a decision about his future.
“I’m probably (going to) just sit down with my family and coaches and think things through,” Sullinger said. “I don't have a definite decision, but we’ll see when that time is right for me.”
Ohio State will already lose William Buford, who exhausted his eligibility. After the Buckeyes’ run to the Final Four, however, Sullinger may not be the only underclassman pondering a potential jump to the NBA.
Sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas has also emerged as an intriguing NBA prospect and he was one of the most electrifying players in the NCAA Tournament this year. Heading into the Kansas game, Thomas had scored more than any player still alive in the Big Dance.
Known for his ability to score in bunches and grab offensive rebounds, Thomas’ game is far from complete. But with the NBA’s reputation of drafting on potential, Thomas could be an attractive selection if he decides to move on to the next level.
Thomas, however, didn’t go out with a bang in his sophomore season. Against Kansas, Thomas was only 3-of-14 from the floor and he finished with only nine points. Thomas played only 23 minutes in the game after fighting through foul trouble.
Like Sullinger, Thomas said he hasn’t made a decision.
“I’m going to have to let this loss soak in right now,” Thomas said. “People are looking at me and if there is a chance for me to go to the next level then I’ll look into something like that, but right now I am trying to (think about this) loss, get my head right, focus on school, and do what’s best for me.”
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