Continuing on in their preparation for the upcoming NBA Draft, the HQ talks to a man who knows potential top five pick Jared Sullinger inside and out, Buckeye Sports Bulletin's Adam Jardy...
As most our readers know, we've been trumpeting the benefits of Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger for a couple months now on the site. He's no Kyrie Irving, but in a draft full of question marks, he looks like one of the best "can't miss" options for a team like the Toronto Raptors.
But how much do we REALLY know about Sullinger outside of the copious amounts of Ohio State footage we've watched this year?
Not a ton, and as a result, I reached out to someone who's been following the Buckeyes' Player of the Year candidate around since he landed on the campus at Columbus, Buckeye Sports Bulletin writer Adam Jardy, to get his take...
1. RaptorsHQ: Talk to us a little about Jared Sullinger and his play this year. What would you say his biggest strengths and weakness are currently?
Adam Jardy: It is hard to pinpoint one key strength because there are a number of things that Sullinger does exceptionally well for a freshman. He's physical, he's agile and he has great court-awareness that allows him to spot double teams as they develop. Head coach Thad Matta has summed it up best on a number of occasions this season when he has described him as, a player who simply has a high basketball IQ.
It all stems from the fact that he has been raised around the game. The kid has had a basketball in his hand for as long as he can remember and it shows on the court. It is this body of knowledge that allows him to outmaneuver and push around players that might have a few inches on him or a few pounds.
As for weaknesses, there certainly are not many. He occasionally has his shot blocked and he has a habit of grabbing a rebound and putting it on the deck before he gets the shot off, but there are thousands of players who would like those to be their only weaknesses.
2. RHQ: Would he get your vote as Naismith Men's College Player of the Year?
AJ: He is certainly in the running because of what he means to his team. Sullinger's presence in the paint allows the Buckeyes to boast some of the best balance in the nation and they would clearly be a greatly inferior team without him, which to me is the best way to truly evaluate who is worthy of being named the player of the year.
I would have to take a good, hard look at the other contenders before naming a favorite, but Sullinger is certainly near the top of a very short list.
3. There have been some rumours about Sullinger returning to Ohio State next year, regardless of the NBA's labour situation. What's your take on this?
AJ: It is impossible to forecast at this point because any statements about whether or not a player will or will not come back next season at this point are purely speculation. Four years ago, Michael Conley looked me right in the eye on a few occasions and insisted that he would be back for his sophomore season. We all know how that turned out, but that does not mean Conley was lying to me. At that moment, he truly believed that he would be back for another year. It was not until after the season that he had to make a decision based upon the facts at hand and he - wisely - opted to leave.
The thing with Sullinger is I am not sure how much higher his stock can go, and I do not foresee it dropping. He is the player that he is and he is not going to suddenly start jumping higher or running much faster: he's a big body who can score in the paint. He is a top-five pick this year and a top-five pick next year or in three years.
I do know this: it means a lot for Sullinger to play at Ohio State and he really wants to bring a title to Columbus. It would not surprise me at all to see him return.
4. Looking at the upcoming NBA draft, should he declare, do you see Sullinger being the possible top pick overall?
AJ: I do not. He's a top-five pick, sure, but I would be surprised to see him as the top pick. He's not explosive enough or, ironically, big enough to be the top overall pick. He will have to likely adjust to playing at power forward in the NBA and demonstrate that he has a perimeter game, which means he is not a slam-dunk top pick.
I would be stunned if anyone aside from Duke's Kyrie Irving is the top pick.
5. Finally, Sullinger's drawn comparisons to everyone from Kevin Love to Elton Brand. Who from the NBA would you compare his game to, and what do you think Sullinger's upside is?
AJ: I have asked this question to a number of coaches and players this season and everyone gives a different answer. To me, perhaps the best comparison I could make would be to former North Carolina post star Tyler Hansbrough, now in his second season with the Indiana Pacers.
The two are the same height and boast many of the same skills. Not the biggest players on the court but plenty big in their own rights, each has needed to learn how to take a beating and find ways to outwork his opponents. Each has proven to be above-average at the free-throw line, an absolute must for a player who makes his living in the post.
The only different there is that we saw more emotion out of Hansbrough in college whereas Sullinger is a more happy-go-lucky player. When it comes to skill sets, however, they have a lot in common.