Former Ohio State basketball star Jared Sullinger has had a less than easy transition into the NBA, personally, physically and mentally.
Sullinger appeared in just 45 games in his rookie season as a forward for the Boston Celtics, averaging just 19.8 minutes a game.
A back injury kept the former two-time AP All-American from meeting his full potential. Sullinger underwent surgery to repair a lumbar disk in February, which sidelined him for the remainder of the 2012-13 season.
At a Sept. 30 press conference, before the start of training camp, Sullinger told reporters that his back is “not close” to game fit and he wasn’t sure whether he would be available for the start of the regular season. Sullinger told the media, “I got a lot of work to do. And only training camp can help that.”
The next day, Sullinger brushed off the situation, saying that his back was 100 percent healthy. He clarified, telling reporters that from his point of view he didn’t feel close to game fit. He seems to be proving himself wrong. The Celtics have played four preseason games and Sullinger is averaging 12.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Though, Sullinger still relents that he isn’t where he feels he should be fitness wise. Having not touched a ball for six months, his fitness level will rise with time.
On top of his injury, Sullinger was arrested in September.
Sullinger appeared in Waltham District Courthouse for the second time Sept. 23, facing charges of assault and battery, intimidation of a witness and destruction of personal property, stemming from a confrontation with his then-girlfriend, Deann Smith Aug. 31. Prosecutors plan to pursue domestic assault charges on the 21-year-old, even though Smith has dropped all charges. Sullinger will return for a second pretrial hearing Oct. 28.
The Columbus native pled not guilty to all charges after he turned himself in but took full responsibility for his actions and said “the experience was humbling and embarrassing” for him.
If the former Buckeye great doesn’t turn things around quickly, he could very easily become another in the long line of OSU big men who flare out in the NBA. That will take a big time change, though, in his life.
Since being selected 21st overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, Sullinger hasn’t been given the opportunity to prove himself, and his sophomore season could be that chance.
Boston is rebuilding after losing coach Doc Rivers and forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the offseason. If he is able to stay healthy and realize his full potential, this year could be the time for him to step up and show the NBA what he is all about.
He still has a long way to go, including resolving his off-the-court issues and making sure he’s no longer in the news for the wrong reasons. But, if he is able to make these changes, he could make a comeback.