Dream Come True For Sullinger

This was too big of an event for Jared Sullinger to miss, flu bug or no flu bug. The Ohio State commitment earned most valuable player honors for his East squad while playing alongside future teammate Deshaun Thomas on his future home court despite an illness that cast his status for the game in doubt.

When Jared Sullinger learned the McDonald's All-American Game would be played in his hometown, he was so excited that he promptly punched a hole in the wall of his bedroom that remains there today.

Then on the eve of the game, the Ohio State commitment came down with a stomach sickness that cast his status for the game in doubt. After shaking off the queasiness, Sullinger started for the East squad and captured the team's most valuable player honor in a 107-104 loss.

"I don't know what got into me," he said after the game. "I just got so excited."

With an attitude like that, it is little surprise that Sullinger found a way to play in the game. He finished with a game-high 22 points on 7 for 11 shooting and added seven rebounds in a game-high 24 minutes of action.

He was joined on the court by future Buckeye teammate DeShaun Thomas, both of whom started for the East. Thomas struggled to find his shot from behind the arc, missing all five of his attempts, but finished with 11 points, seven boards and three assists in 22 minutes.

"There was a little bit of pressure," Thomas said. "The jumper wasn't falling, but I stayed with it and showed off a little bit at the end. I think I played hard and showed them who I was."

The event resembled a Sullinger party at times. The standout from Columbus Northland was playing on his future college court, and plenty of locals came out to get a glimpse of the future Buckeye. His introduction before the game generated the loudest response, and he was a runaway choice for his team's most valuable player award in the fan voting posted on the scoreboard.

"Jared's a phenomenal player, and for this to be at his school I can't imagine what kind of joy it was for him to play in front of the city of Columbus," said West forward Harrison Barnes, who captured his team's most valuable player award after putting up 18 points.

Sullinger and Thomas might have work to do before they become Buckeyes, however. Asked if he is academically qualified right now, Sullinger said, "I don't know yet. I'll have to get back to you on that."

Asked what he needs to work on, Sullinger said he needs to improve his ACT score but said he does not have a set goal. As for Thomas, he said he will retake the ACT with the goal of improving his score one point to a 17.

"I'm fully academically qualified," he said. "I'm going to take the ACT. I only need one more point. I just made the honor roll."

But in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Sullinger's status was in doubt. Sullinger said he had food poisoning after eating a late-night snack, but also added that another player had a flu bug that he might have caught.

"Sitting in the hotel room, I was drained," he said. "I was tired, my stomach was hurting and I had a headache. I wanted to at least get a dunk, and then (head coach Dru) Joyce could take me out."

Sullinger said he received an IV that contained both fluids and medicine. It worked during the game, but afterward he admitted to not feeling too well.

"Right now I'm a little low," he said. "My stomach hurts a little bit but the adrenaline is pumping. I know tonight I'm going to be in the hotel bed feeling bad."

Thomas said he hoped he gave OSU fans a glimpse of what he can do on the court aside from scoring.

"(Sullinger) showed them that he's the MVP and I came out and showed them that I'm the garbage man who can do the little things to help the Ohio State team win ballgames," he said. "That's what I did. I came out here and played hard."

Both players took the court with a number of members of last year's OSU squad in attendance. Evan Turner, William Buford, David Lighty and P.J. Hill were all on hand for the game seated throughout Value City Arena.

They saw Sullinger win the opening tip, and on the ensuing possession he got off to a rocky start after Thomas found him inside for a layup that rattled out. Those who stuck around to the end also saw the duo help their team tie the game in the final minute.

With his team trailing by two points, Sullinger grabbed a rebound and helped get the ball quickly up the court where Thomas threw down a dunk to make it 104-104 with 32 seconds remaining.

The West took home the victory, however, when Brandon Knight – an undecided guard from Coral Springs (Fla.) Pine Crest – drilled a three-pointer from the right wing. Sullinger had one final look at the basket, but his heave from beyond half court was off target.

Despite the loss, the evening remained a dream come true for Sullinger.

"I still think I'm in a dream," he said. "I have to pinch myself to see if I'm up. To get the MVP in Columbus is just amazing."

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