Around this time last year, Jared Sullinger was preparing for one of the biggest days in a baller’s life: Draft Day.
Sullinger, from THE Ohio State University, who was a projected lottery pick, partly due to being flagged by NBA medical doctors for having issues with his back.
Sullinger went on to be (respectfully) selected as the 21st pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. At Ohio State Sullinger played in 74 career games and only missed a handful of games due to his back. Obviously his injuries didn’t hold him back (pun intended) because he was selected as a Consensus All-American in back-to-back (more pun intended) seasons, and led Ohio State to the Sweet Sixteen and Final Four in both of his seasons.
Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics took a gamble on Sullinger, and it paid off mightily. Sullinger was an immediate contributor on a veteran ball team. Then, head coach Doc Rivers, who is notoriously known not for playing rookies, couldn’t resist playing the power forward out of Columbus, Ohio.
With a high basketball IQ – undoubtedly developed while playing with and under father Satch, and learning from his older brothers Julian (played at Kent State) and J.J Sullinger(played at Arkansas and Ohio State), Sully was more prepared than your average rookie. Sully also displayed a knack for rebounding which was a skill that the Celtics had lacked. Sully gave us some insight into his niche with the Celtics by averaging 6.0 ppg to go along with 6.0 rebounds per game in only 19.8 minutes per game.While Sullinger was on the court, the Celtics were 4.2 points better per 100 possessions, and the numbers fell dramatically when he was not in the rotation.
Most may not know it, but Sullinger was the team’s best rebounder per 48 minutes.
In front of a national televised audience Sullinger put his talents on display. On Christmas Day against the Brooklyn Nets Sully had 16 points, 7 rebounds, and a team high +21 while he was on the floor. This game was a bounce back performance against the same team where Sullinger had played one of his worse games of the season.
During the stretch from December to January Sully’s minutes went up from 17.7 to 23.2 meaning that Doc Rivers was gaining more trust in his rookie. Though Sully was labeled as a rookie, his play on the court was mature beyond his years
As things were on the up for Sullinger an unexpected back injury derailed his rookie season. Many people talk about the crucial knee injury to All-Star Rajon Rondo, but the injury Sullinger suffered dealt a huge blow to the Celtics due to the lack of quality players in the front court.
Prior to injury, Sullinger was a likely selection to make an All-NBA Rookie Team and the Celtics were counting on Sullinger for the playoffs. Things did not go as expected for Sullinger and the Celtics, but despite injury and an early playoff exit the future looks more than bright for Jared Sullinger.
Last season is now behind Sullinger, and he is taking that entire rookie experience into the next season. With the Boston Celtics in rebuilding mode Sullinger will be required to do more heavy lifting as one of the core players coming back to the team.
Is he too slow? Is he athletic enough? How high can he jump? Since stepping on the hardwood as a youngster in Columbus, Ohio Sullinger has always had to face scrutiny or some type of doubt. When the challenge gets tougher Sullinger has shown that he always rises to the occasion. Just because this is the NBA, do not expect that to be any different.
Some may not respect his talent yet or overemphasize his injury; but mark my word, we should stay tuned for more because The Return of Jared Sullinger. Without a doubt, his story is one that ends with this on the screen:
To be continued…