by Jared Sullinger (as told to Dan Shapiro)
I play this game to win. Sitting in the locker room after last year’s loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16, I knew right then that I had to stay in school and make things right. That was a loss I couldn’t live with. We had that game. I was raised to keep my word, and once I said that I was coming back, the decision was final. From my coach, my teammates and my family, all I’ve received is support for that.
It was never about the lockout. It was about winning at Ohio State and the chance to play another year on campus. Be a kid and have the irreplaceable experience of being on campus and playing college basketball.
I also get the advantage of working on my game. Taking the advice of Coach [Thad] Matta, the main thing I started to do was drop pounds. Toward the end of last season, at 275 pounds, I was definitely feeling the wear of the schedule.
The goal is to get my weight to a place where I can keep my power but get a consistent motor to help me with some of my new roles on the court. I took up boxing as a way to lose weight but also work on endurance while keeping up precision and quickness. This next season I really want to work on expanding my game. That will mean spending more time at the 4 position. Last year, so much of my time was spent in the low post, which was productive for the team, but I know that I can extend the court and be a risk away from the basket. Dropping this weight will show off my athleticism and not just on the offensive side of the ball. Expect a new effort from me on the defensive end. I want to be contesting shots, attacking the defensive boards and being a physical presence in the middle.
The summer’s been hectic but also a great learning experience. I spent time at four camps: Amar’e’s Skills Academy, LeBron James’ Academy, the adidas Nations camp and at LeBron’s King’s Academy in San Diego. They’ve all been opportunities to help out younger players and get intensive workouts that picked apart my game and helped me improve.
Now I’m back finishing up summer school in Columbus, back with my team on my campus. I’m a Buckeye, and I’m telling you that we’re going to finish what we started.
I look at the lockout and see that I still have the opportunity to be playing competitive basketball just as I like it. I don’t have to go overseas to play the game, and I don’t have to be trying to figure out my role in a League that may not have a season. Don’t get me wrong, I love the NBA and have so much respect for what a lot of those guys do out on the court. But I can wait. For me, it’s back to school with a major assignment due in March.
photos courtesy of Ohio State Athletics