Cody Cousino / Photo editor
With the blessing of his family and his coaches, Ohio State’s big man Jared Sullinger is heading for the big show.
Sullinger announced that he is leaving OSU, foregoing his final two years of NCAA eligibility and entering the NBA Draft during a Wednesday press conference at the Schottenstein Center.
The announcement comes just four days after OSU’s NCAA Tournament run ended with a 64-62 Final Four loss against Kansas Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Sullinger said the decision was the result of OSU advancing to the Final Four.
“I sat down with my family and we pretty much came up with the decision, and I think it’s best for me to try to go at it at the next level,” Sullinger said. “And also, I wouldn’t do anything to hurt this program or any of the guys that’s a part of this program. I just thought it was best for me to (go pro).”
During his two seasons in scarlet and gray, Sullinger started 73 of the 74 games he played, scoring 1,282 points, hauling in 717 rebounds and tallying 59 blocks while also dishing out 89 assists.
The Buckeyes won 65 games during his two seasons at OSU, earning the team the No. 1-overall seed and a No. 2 seed in the 2011 and 2012 NCAA Tournaments, respectively.
OSU coach Thad Matta, who said it feels like he has coached Sullinger for more than two years, said the time is right for Sullinger to leave for professional basketball.
“The hardest part is you develop a friendship with a guy,” Matta said. “I’m going to miss Jared as a player, but I’m going to miss him more as a person on a daily basis. That’s always the hardest part for me.”
Sullinger’s father, Satch Sullinger, said he would not have been comfortable with a decision to leave for the NBA following his son’s freshman campaign.
“This year, I watched the peaks and the valleys,” Satch Sullinger said. “I saw that consistency start to come back … during the end-of-season run all the way through the Final Four.
“I was sitting down talking to my older two boys, and I had to come to the realization that I don’t have any little boys anymore. I have three grown men and I’m totally comfortable with the decision he’s made.”
Jared Sullinger again said he was not concerned with his draft stock Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean other people aren’t thinking about where he could land in the upcoming NBA Draft.
ESPN.com writer Chad Ford lists Jared Sullinger as the No. 11 player on his ranking of the top 100 collegiate prospects.
Jared Sullinger, who said he purposely gained five pounds during this past season to increase his strength, likened his game to that of Minnesota Timberwolves forward and former UCLA Bruin, Kevin Love.
“I wouldn’t say I’m as good as Kevin Love,” Jared Sullinger said. “But I have the body type and the skill set of Kevin Love.”
Matta said Jared Sullinger has the ability to make people say, “‘I didn’t know he could do that.'”
“I think that Jared has a lot of different things he can do on the basketball floor,” Matta said. “I think that’s going to be the beauty for him – that he’s going to the next level with a lot of different things that he can do. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s ready.
“Strictly from the standpoint of, yeah, he’s got a great skill set. He’s got a great understanding of the game. I think the biggest attribute that Jared Sullinger has is he’s a winner. He wins.”
Some OSU students agree Jared Sullinger’s move to the NBA is the right one.
Casey Goddard, a fourth-year in criminology, said he thinks Jared Sullinger has the potential to make millions of dollars in the NBA.
“He’s one of the faces of this team. You want him to stay,” Goodard said. “But you’d also like to see him represent Ohio State in the NBA. I think he’ll do all right.”
Casey Justus, who graduated after Winter Quarter with a degree in economics, said he thinks Jared Sullinger’s athleticism isn’t likely to improve and he should leave.
“He would be losing money if he stayed another year,” Justus said. “The NBA is so focused on potential, and his potential ceiling is not as high.”
As far as Jared Sullinger’s degree is concerned, he said he plans to complete it at some point. That was part of the agreement with his mother, Barbara Sullinger.
Barbara Sullinger forced her son to look her in the eye and promise he would finish his degree.
“If you’re going to be Barbara Sullinger’s son, you have to get a college degree,” she said.
While at OSU, the Buckeye big man helped the team claim the outright 2011 Big Ten regular season championship, the 2011 Big Ten Tournament Championship and a share of the 2012 Big Ten regular season title.
OSU also defeated the NCAA Tournament East Region’s No. 1-seed Syracuse, 77-70, to win the East Regional Championship March 24 at TD Garden in Boston.
Jared Sullinger received Associated Press First-Team All-American honors in consecutive seasons at the Schottenstein Center. Sullinger also racked up the 2011 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, as well as selections to the 2011 and 2012 Big Ten All-Tournament team. Most recently, he was named the NCAA Tournament East Region’s Most Outstanding Player.
Patrick Cooley contributed to this story.