Jared Sullinger was honored Friday night at his alma mater, Northland High School, receiving the 2010 Naismith National High School Player of the Year award, alongside his father James.
James “Satch” Sullinger received the 2010 Naismith National and Boys High School Coach of the Year award at halftime for his team’s success last season.
Jared, who is averaging 18 points and 10.3 rebounds for the No. 1 Buckeyes (24-0, 11-0 Big Ten), got to be a fan at his alma mater’s game, sitting with his two brothers, J.J. and Julian, and even tossed some verbal abuse the referees’ way, following J.J.’s lead.
“He always heckles the refs so I’m taking a little bit after him,” Jared said. “Unfortunately back in the day when I was in high school nine months ago … there were times I couldn’t yell at the ref. Now I can yell at the ref and tell ’em how I really feel.”
The gymnasium was small. Only 10 rows stretched from the floor to the back wall on either side of the court. But they were full of fans watching the Vikings play Brookhaven High School, and honoring two of Northland’s own.
“It’s outstanding,” Satch said. “He’s living the dream; the Northland community loves him and he loves it.”
One scoreboard wasn’t working properly — the last digit wasn’t showing because the light was burned out. As the clock wound down to single digits, J.J. yelled the time to the players on the floor.
Satch did some yelling of his own, pacing the court, constantly coaching both players and referees.
“Normally I think he’s yelling at me,” Jared said, “when he’s yelling at somebody else.”
Satch has been taking notes of his own this year, watching Jared and the No. 1 Buckeyes play to a perfect record so far.
“What he’s doing up there with Thad Matta, what Thad Matta is getting out of him,” Satch said, “I mean, I’m even amazed, and I coached him for four years.”
It was a busy homecoming for Jared: He played with little kids, signed autographs, talked to friends and was introduced to people.
A little boy sat on the bench with a T-shirt sporting the number 34 and the name “Sully” stretched across the back.
At halftime the crowd stood and cheered as father and son received their awards and embraced. A circle of reporters and cameras crowded the small scorer’s table.
“It means a lot,” Jared said. “This is where I started my basketball legacy. This is where people learned to accept me. I never change; I’m always me.”
Jared watched his former team and thought of his high school days, just months ago. A younger player, whom Jared has taken under his wing, reminds him of his own days in green and gold.
“Devon Scott is like a little brother of mine,” Jared said. “He’s around the same body type, athletic. He can block shots, and right now I’m just tryin’ to keep his head on right.”
Scott, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound junior forward for the Vikings, scored 12 points but was outshined by teammate Trey Burke, a Michigan commitment, who scored his 1,000th point in front of future coach John Beilein. But Scott will continue to develop under both Jared’s and Satch’s watch.
The Vikings went on to win in blowout fashion, 70-35, extending their record to 15-0 and giving the Northland community even more to cheer about.
“We’re a very close family; we’re always together,” Satch said. “Whenever something like this happens, I don’t care who it is, we all come together and celebrate. That’s the way we were raised.”
The Vikings lost their next game to St. Edward High School, 84-81, on Saturday.