Lauderdale Ready To Accept Role

Dallas Lauderdale has proven himself to be a physical presence in the paint during his past two seasons in the Ohio State starting lineup, but that could change this season with the arrival of five-star freshman Jared Sullinger. Seated at Big Ten media day, Lauderdale said he will be accepting of any role this season.

Representing Ohio State at Big Ten media day in Chicago, Dallas Lauderdale took the place of a younger teammate. When the Buckeyes start the 2010-11 season this Sunday with an exhibition and Nov. 12 with their first regular-season game, the senior center could find himself replaced by a younger teammate.

Last Tuesday, Lauderdale learned he would be a fill-in for junior guard William Buford at Thursday's media day. When he arrived at OSU's table and found a seat between fellow seniors David Lighty and Jon Diebler, Lauderdale found that there was no nametag for him but that Buford's had made the trip.

Now this Sunday, the question will be whether or not Lauderdale will relinquish his starting role to freshman Jared Sullinger, one of the nation's most promising freshmen.

"I'll come in and do what I need to do," Lauderdale said. "I'll do whatever I have to do to help the team. It really doesn't matter to me. I just want to win games. If that's what I have to do to help the team win games, that's what I'll do."

During the past two seasons, Lauderdale has started 69 of 73 games, missing the other four due to injury. His minutes, points and rebounds per game have all increased in each season as he has shown the ability to be a difference-maker on defense as well as a powerful dunker when he gets the ball near the basket.

What he has been lacking has been consistency. As a junior, he scored in double figures in four straight games and did not reach that plateau again until seven games later. He finished the season averaging 6.4 points and a Big Ten-leading 2.1 blocks per contest.

Although he said Lauderdale has had some tremendous moments during his career, head coach Thad Matta said he has been harping on Lauderdale to improve his consistency.

The senior reported to camp sporting a shaved head and a bushy beard that has since been removed as well. Asked about his change in outward appearance, Lauderdale said it reflected a "new Dallas."

So what's different?

"Everything," he said. "I think the biggest thing that changed with me this summer was really my mentality and the mental part of the game."

It appears he will need all of that and then some this season as he battles Sullinger for playing time. Listed at 6-9, 280 pounds, the freshman has been pegged by national analysts as the next one-and-done player in Columbus. In Chicago, Matta described Sullinger as the type of player who can make his teammates better while he is on the court.

"He's a great kid and a very unselfish player," the coach said. "The ball goes in and it comes back out. There have been some pretty good two-man things that I've seen in practice that he must have been doing for a while."

On the eve of the start of practice, Lauderdale said he was enjoying being pushed by Sullinger throughout summer workouts and open gyms. Nearly two weeks later, the senior clarified the difference between being pushed by another player and being pushed around by him.

The senior said he had an early conversation with Sullinger.

"The biggest thing that Jared has been doing is progressing mentally," Lauderdale said. "Early on in practice if a call didn't go his way he would get a little frustrated. I talked to him and told him, ‘Every call is not going to go your way in the college game. You have to be able to sustain your game and the way you play.'

"I think he's starting to get better at that. I think the coaches are purposely not giving him the calls and I'm purposely down there giving him some hard fouls just to get him ready."

OSU does not permit freshmen to talk to the media until they have played a game.

As a sophomore, Lauderdale held five-star prospect B.J. Mullens out of the starting lineup. The freshman then left the program after one season and is on the roster with the NBA's Oklahoma City franchise. The senior said Sullinger does not compare to any other big men he has faced during his OSU career.

"He's a totally different player than B.J. and (Kosta Koufos)," said Lauderdale, who said he has only gone against Greg Oden during open gym sessions. "Totally different. They're not comparable. Kosta and B.J. were a little similar in the body type and build, but (Sullinger) is not the same player."

The possibility also remains that the two could work in tandem with each other rather than in relief. Matta said he has worked with lineups that use both alignments. Should Lauderdale and Sullinger play extensively together and get in foul trouble, the coach mentioned Lighty and freshman DeShaun Thomas as players who can assume the center role in an emergency.

But while Lauderdale looks to have a solid final season, Sullinger is pegged as one who will have a monster first one. Sensing this, Matta offered a thought on the freshman.

"The hype and all that stuff is a little bit unfair," the coach said. "Let him play some college basketball and then judge at that point. He's a kid that has a good understanding of how to play the game. His skill level with his size is unique. I like the fact that he's one of those guys that the other guys enjoy playing with him."

Now, will the Buckeyes feel the same about Lauderdale?

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