JJ Sullinger Q + A
On Ohio State basketball, and his youngest brother Jared.
SLAM: I’m watching opposing teams try to get physical with Jared and it doesn’t look to me like it bothers him. He kind of looks like a kid who got beat up by his brothers a little bit growing up, that fair to say?
JJ: Absolutely. At the time we didn’t really think or have any idea what we were doing, we were just being big brothers. We weren’t sitting around saying, we’re beating Jared up to make him a tougher basketball player, Julianand I were just picking on him because he was our little brother.
But it did start to turn into a thing where Jared really has become unaffected by physical play as a result of it. He actually looks for it. He’s best when he’s being physical. When someone elbows him in the mouth, or gives him a cheap shot or a hard foul or anything, it kind of sets him into a different gear.
All of that is simply because that is what he had to do growing up to be able to play with his older brothers.
When I was sixteen he was six, but he was with me and we played basketball together all the time. So imagine a six year old going up against a sixteen year old, who’s not taking any crap from his youngest brother.
But like I said man, at the time we were just picking on our little brother. We might have kind of created a monster though, a monster a lot of people are finding out right now is pretty good.
SLAM: It was no secret growing up that Jared was pretty good, obviously a McDonald’s All American coming into OSU with everything that goes along with that, but was there a time growing up when you thought he could be CBB Player of the Year, or a top-5 lottery pick, type good?
JJ: We always said growing up that Jared would be the best of the three. At the time, that was pretty big shoes to fill, really. The success that Julian and I had on the basketball court was pretty good, but we always said Jared was going to be the best.
When Jared was three he was shooting a regular sized basketball from the free throw line. Not too many three year olds can do that, not too many 10 year olds can do that actually. Then when he was five he was popping threes, like making three or four in a row.
So he’s been a special player from the beginning.
He’s still not the most athletic kid on the court though, but because he’s been playing against older people pretty much all his life, when he gets around people his own age he’s still fighting to survive because that’s how he’s used to playing.
That fight is what makes him so successful, because a lot of times they’re not ready for it.
SLAM: What’s your relationship or interactions like with Jared now during the season?
JJ: It’s funny because he’s still my brother. There’s a lot more in life than basketball, so I try not to criticize or nit-pick about everything, even though I still think he should be playing perfect.
Against Purdue for example, he gave up a couple jump shots that I didn’t think JaJuan Johnson should have been able to attempt.
He didn’t get out there quick enough, and I let him know about it after the game. But I always make sure I tell him something positive before I tell him something negative.
But really Jared knows what he’s doing, he’s been around the game since he was a very little kid like I said, and he knows what’s going on. I trust his judgment, I trust his maturity level, so I kind of try to stand in the background mostly.
Now you might catch me yelling or screaming at him at a game, or I might embarrass him a little bit, but anything I say is for the betterment of him and the betterment of the team, so it’s worth it.
SLAM: Who won last time you guys played one-on-one?
JJ: The last time we played it was Julian, Jared and I. I believe I won twice, Jared won twice, and Julian won once I believe. If you ask Jared or Julian they’ll probably tell you they each won them all, but I think it was 2-2-1.
Now I’m not gonna lie, I can’t guard Jared. He’s bigger than me and shoots right over me, but I’ll tell you what man, he still can’t guard his big brother.
SLAM: There’s been a lot of talk about Jared planning to play at least two seasons at OSU before entering the NBA Draft. Say OSU wins the national championship this season, Jared’s an All American, and projected to be a top-5 pick this summer, what advice would you have for him then on the decision to stay or go?
JJ: What I’d tell him is to do what he thinks needs to be done. Now that situation is close to impossible to even think about at this point, but Jared is going to do what he wants to do.
Now I think, personally, my opinion is the only thing Jared is thinking about or wanting to do is beat Northwestern. That is the only thing on his agenda right now, beating Northwestern.
He wants to get better in practice, and then on Saturday he wants to beat Northwestern.
To look anything further down the line would be doing my brother, The Ohio State University, and Coach Matta a disservice.
I also believe the fact that he thinks that way is why he’s having so much success this season.
He’s really not looking down the line. He’s not looking at the future, he’s not looking at what he’ll do next, and the question has never come across our conversations. I know everyone else wants to know, but it’s not something that he or any of us are interested in right now.
There’s a lot more basketball to be played, and he’s going to just enjoy the moment. He’s having a blast right now. He loves his teammates, he loves his school, he loves his coaching staff, and he’s having a good time. As a big brother, I just want him to enjoy it.
Next up for Jared Sullinger and the #1 ranked undefeated Buckeyes are those Northwestern Wildcats, Saturday at 6pm. Whether they stay unbeaten or not, there will be an oldest brother watching who couldn’t be more proud of the player and person that Jared Sullinger’s become.
Even if he does let him know he gave up a couple easy ones to JaJuan Johnson in a 23-point blow-out.