A crackerjack of a court, the bleachers stretch less than a dozen rows deep on each side. The lighting has a yellowish tint on the court and the lights on one scoreboard are burned out so you can not tell exactly how many seconds remain in the quarter.
But before Jared Sullinger began to wreak havoc on Big Ten basketball, it was here that he made his mark. And on Friday night, the Vikings welcomed arguably their most famous alumnus back to present him with the greatest individual award possible for a prep basketball player: the Naismith.
Seated in the bleachers in the same row as older brother and former Buckeye J.J. Sullinger and one spot behind current teammate Evan Ravenel, the freshman reflected on the memories he had experienced on the court in front of him.
"This has to be one of the top (moments here)," he told BuckeyeSports.com. "It's a special thing, especially with the community out here and being a rivalry game that two of my brothers never beat. It's a special product."
Although the crowd on hand was focused on the game, Sullinger was treated as the man of the hour. With television cameras pointed at him for much of the contest, Sullinger was busy hugging fans, shaking hands and catching up with those who watched him grow from a pudgy freshman to the nation's top player.
Northmont senior Trey Burke, a signed member of Michigan's class of 2011, reached the 1,000-point career scoring mark in the contest with U-M head coach John Beilein in attendance. Burke's family sat near midcourt partially decked out in Wolverines gear.
It did not stop them from embracing Sullinger.
"It's special," he said of the support he still receives from Northland. "It's real special, especially with everybody being on my side – even the Burke family, even though they're going to Michigan. That's a big accomplishment right there."
Sullinger was honored alongside his father, Satch, who brought home the corresponding coaching award.
"Having a father and a coach that taught me values about basketball and life and all aspects of your lifestyle, it's really special to have him being your coach and your father," said Sullinger, who added that he calls his dad Satch. "At the same time he was in the hallways so I had to do right. It's a great comfort."
One day after the awards were handed out, OSU head coach Thad Matta said he could not remember where he was when he learned Sullinger had been named the national player of the year because he had assumed it was a foregone conclusion.
"In my mind, in watching Jared throughout the course of his high school career, I didn't think there was anybody better than him," the coach said. "Obviously I didn't see everybody, but from what I had watched in high school and the Amateur Athletic Association, he was really, really good."
As a senior, Sullinger averaged 24.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and 2.4 assists per game. He hit on 78 percent of his attempts from the field, 38 percent on three-pointers and 77 percent at the free-throw line. He ended his prep career with 1,910 career points and more than 1,200 rebounds and a state title earned during his junior season.
Now 23 games into his freshman season at OSU, he leads his team in scoring and rebounding with averages of 18.0 and 10.1, respectively. He has been named the Big Ten freshman of the week 10 of a possible 12 times and has earned at least a share of the conference's player of the week award four times.
Following his 19-point, 15-rebound performance Thursday against Michigan, FoxSports.com senior college basketball writer Jeff Goodman named Sullinger the favorite to bring home another Naismith trophy – this one for collegiate player of the year.
Looking on as his dad yelled out commands to his squad in the gym where it all started, Sullinger shrugged off such concerns.
"Right now with 23 games into our season going on 24, you've really got to focus in on the team aspect at this point," he said.