Scouting J.J. Sullinger

A.T. Buckeye checks in today with a look at J.J. Sullinger, the fine guard transferring to OSU from Arkansas.

J.J. SULLINGER

(6-5, 200, G—Columbus, OH, Thomas Worthington HS)

Transfer from Arkansas

Junior Eligible Transfer—eligible to play 2003-2004.


There was a collective sound heard from the Buckeye Nation on January 2nd.  And no, it wasn't the sonic boom that followed the intense disappointment that was the last 2 minutes of the Outback Bowl.  Some that were tuned in to an ESPN broadcast of a seemingly meaningless game between Memphis and Arkansas keenly noticed something interesting with regards to the players on the floor.   There was one kid in particular, who seemed to have brought his "A" game to the Pyramid.  Number "0" slashed to the hole with gusto, converted with a flush in transition, and defended the wing with bullish determination.  On a conventional 3 point conversion attempt, the young guy stepped to the line where his vitals were flashed under his chin—the same way any college guys number go up.  But what's that?  Columbus, Ohio?  What is this kid doing playing in the SEC?  And how did he get out of Columbus in the first place?

But all in good time.  That young guy of course was J.J. Sullinger, and if his name was ever a mystery to Buckeye fans, it certainly isn't any longer.  He went for 19 points and 6 boards in that nationally televised game.  Some would argue it was his finest performance of the year (against an underachieving though ridiculously talented Memphis squad)And several months after that game, those same Buckeye fans who were wondering why Sullinger was in an Arkansas uniform now get to whoop it up as he returns home to don the scarlet and gray.

Those that have followed this story know that Sullinger is a lifelong Buckeye fan and was not on scholarship at OSU only because of a numbers crunch.  The class of 2000 was one of the more memorable in terms of depth in the state of Ohio, and Sullinger was not mentioned among the top 5 talents on the "guru lists".  There was Jawad Williams (UNC), Matt Sylvester, Keith Jackson (Xavier), Terence Dials, and Adam Waleskowski (Florida St.).  Sullinger was considered a couple of rungs lower.

One that was not fooled was Coach O'Brien, who knew Sullinger had the tools to contribute at the Big 10 level.  He just had no scholarships to give.  OSU's offer of Prep School with a promise of a scholarship in 2002 was rejected outright by Sullinger, who rightfully wanted to play immediately.  His stat line at Arkansas proves that that decision was not made on bravado.  This young guy had some business to attend to and did not want to wait to get to it.

SULLINGER—2001/2002 ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS

GMS

FGM

FGA

FTM

FTA

3PM

3PA

PTS

OFF

REB

AST

FG%

FT%

3P%

PPG

29

94

224

72

100

13

64

273

33

88

56

42.0

72.0

20.6

9.4

The first rumblings came in February when long time Arkansas hoops boss Nolan Richardson's feud with the university administration began to publicly escalate.  It ended with Coach Richardson out of a job, and Sullinger, an outspoken critic of the ouster, rethinking his options.  Reports circulated that Sullinger would stay only if longtime assistant Mike Anderson (now head coach at UAB) got the top position.  As everybody that follows the college game knows—the job went to Kent St coach (and former Tom Izzo assistant) Stan Heath.

At this point the rumormill heated up.  Front page stories broke in Columbus proclaiming Sullinger a Buckeye, even before Arkansas had given a formal release.  As it turns out, the Arkansas administration was dragging its heels—attempting to allow Heath a chance to "re-recruit" Sullinger back into the Razorback fold.  Maybe it was the sight of hundreds of grown men doing the "whoo- pig—sooey" chant that did it.  It became obvious to almost all observers that Sullinger was coming home.

But what will Sullinger bring to the Buckeyes?  Is he worth waiting a year for when another high flying recruit (Florida's Marcus Morrsion) seemed ready to commit and would be available next year?  Obviously only opinions are out there right now, and I will throw in mine.  Sullinger will help and should team with Ricardo Billings and (cross your fingers Buckeye fanatics) a healthy Matt Sylvester to give the Buckeyes as dynamic a group of wings since JJ, Brown, and Jent (collectively of course).  The left hand slashing moves will remind some of another lefty swingman now showing his wares in Milwaukee.  And his scoring average should only improve with time, as it would have at Arkansas.

SULLINGER'S BEST--  2001/2002

DATE & OPP MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST BLK STL TO PTS
 Oral Roberts

28

6-11

1-4

3-6

6

6

0

3

1

16

 SW Texas

24

3-5

0-2

5-5

2

3

0

0

0

11

 @Illinois

30

4-8

0-2

5-5

3

4

0

2

2

13

 UNC-Greensboro

28

6-10

0-2

6-6

3

3

1

2

0

18

 UT-Chatt

23

4-10

1-4

2-3

2

3

1

0

2

11

 Oklahoma St

30

8-14

2-6

2-3

4

2

1

2

2

20

 Elon

15

4-9

0-1

3-4

2

2

0

1

0

11

 @Memphis

24

8-15

0-1

3-3

6

3

0

0

0

19

 @Auburn

24

5-10

1-4

5-8

4

0

1

0

1

16

 Florida

26

3-6

1-2

4-5

5

5

1

1

3

11

 @Alabama

22

4-9

0-2

3-4

3

3

0

1

0

11

 @Ole Miss

26

6-9

0-1

4-6

5

3

0

0

2

16

 @Tennessee

28

5-12

2-5

1-1

7

0

0

2

1

13

 LSU

33

3-12

1-4

3-5

5

6

0

2

1

10

*  Note: Some, if not most, of Sullinger's best games came in the pre-conference schedule.  The level of the opposition was still formidable however (Memphis, Illinois, Oklahoma St.) and his highest point totals came against top rung teams.

*Note:  Despite seemingly modest numbers, Sullinger was second on the Razorbacks in rebounding for the year and third in scoring.

Sullinger still has some flaws in his game that could use fine tuning (his perimeter jumper, particularly in 3 point territory is still not consistent).  But that is the beauty of the transfer year.  Sullinger can hone his skills in practice and with the work ethic he obviously has, will be an even more devastating force in the Big 10 in 2002-3.  Lots of fans look to the "guru top 100" lists to gauge how talented newcomers are and how much they might contribute.  If Sullinger was on such a list for newcomers in 2003, where would he be?  My guess – a guy that can get you close to double figures a game in the SEC is the equivalent of a top 30 high schooler.  Throw away whatever Sullinger was ranked in high school.  That is what he is bringing to the Schott in the near future. 

Let the Buckeye Nation rejoice.


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