Sullinger, Thomas Eye Starting Spots

Ohio State's 2010 recruiting class boasts some of the top talent in the country, but the crown jewels of the class are Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas. Both are in Columbus as part of the McDonald's High School All-American game, and both spoke to BuckeyeSports.com on what they think the future could hold for the Buckeyes.

Although the core of this year's Ohio State team will return, there will be room for a new starter or two depending on how things shake out. At the top of the list of candidates to assume those roles are a pair of five-star recruits: Jared Sullinger and DeShaun Thomas.

Sullinger, listed at 6-9, 261 pounds, could be a candidate to displace incumbent starter Dallas Lauderdale and the center position. On the wing, the 6-7, 218-pound Thomas could grab a spot should Evan Turner opt to head to the NBA.

Both are in Columbus as members of the McDonald's High School All-American game, a contest that will be played on their future college court.

"We connect very well," Thomas said. "We make great passes to each other. It feels like we've been teammates for years. The chemistry is there and it's very good."

Both players will get a chance to show that off Wednesday night. It will be one of the last high school experiences for the duo before their OSU careers begin with summer courses.

After averaging 24.0 points, 12.1 boards and 2.1 assists per game, Sullinger is viewed as an offensive improvement over what Lauderdale brings to the court. However, the senior from Columbus Northland said he prides himself on something other than scoring.

"If I'm not scoring, I'll rebound the basketball," Sullinger said. "That's fun to me. I can get 20 rebounds, have zero points and feel like I had 20 points that night. Rebounding is the biggest part of my game, so with Evan being there he can rebound real well and Dallas can rebound real well. Dallas and I together, there's no second-chance points if we're in the game together."

Sullinger is listed as a center in the media guide for the game, but the Buckeyes list him as a power forward. He begins his career as Scout.com's top center prospect but said he is not sure exactly where he will play.

"Everybody has me listed as a center but my natural position to me is a power forward," he said. "It doesn't matter. To me, that's politics. They see what I do best and that's back to the basket and that's most centers, but I really don't show everything that I do. I just go to my most dominant things."

Said Thomas: "I'm looking forward to playing with him a lot. He's a big man who can pass well, he can shoot well and spread the floor. I'm very confident playing with him next year."

Thomas enters as the more prolific scorer of the two with an average of 33.9 points. He also averaged 16.3 points and 3.3 blocks per contest.

"I don't go in with the mentality of starting," he said. "I'm going in with the mentality to work hard and go from there. Jared and I talked about it and said if we don't' start, we'll be cool. We'll have a great team. If we have to come off the bench and give energy, it doesn't matter. We'll come in and stay focused and go hard each day."

As Thomas mentioned, Sullinger said he will accept whatever role head coach Thad Matta assigns him. Sullinger also said the coach has drawn a parallel between his play and that of current Buckeye David Lighty

"He wants a glue guy and I think I can be that glue guy," Sullinger said. "He wants me to turn into a Dave Lighty who helps them out and does all the dirty work. That's what I look forward to doing. If it's a loose ball, I'm going to go dive for it. If there's a rebound, I'm going to try to get it as best as I can. I'm trying to be a glue guy."

Should Turner leave, the Buckeyes will be without an experienced point guard on the roster. Two incoming freshmen – Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith – are likely candidates to share the spot, but Thomas singled out current Buckeye William Buford as another player who could step into that mix.

Both prep players expressed their hope that Turner would return for another season. Thomas said he did not expect him to do so, while Sullinger said the point guard will have support from the program regardless of his decision.

It is Thomas' hope that a Turner return could lead to some big things.

"Next year, we need a legit point but we'll have good big guys," he said. "I think we're more of scorers. Lauderdale is more of a shot blocker who can do his own part. Us coming in and scoring will help out.

"I'm thinking a national championship with the best player in the nation. If he comes back next year, you could guarantee a ring."


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