Jared Sullinger: Is He Helping or Hurting His Draft Status This Season?

Jim SullivanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 25:  Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after a play against the Kentucky Wildcats during the first half of the east regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Prudential Center on March 25, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Ohio State is one of the best squads in the nation this season by far. Standing in elite company near the top of the rankings with Syracuse, Baylor, Kentucky, and UNC, the Buckeyes are led by arguably the best player in the country. 

Jared Sullinger came back to Columbus for his sophomore year after a phenomenal freshman season, prepared to take OSU all the way to a national championship. Coach Thad Matta and company have been fortunate enough to secure Sullinger's services in search of a Big Dance No. 1 seed. 

However, Sullinger's main goal isn't to win a national title for Ohio State. His ultimate desire is to star in the NBA, making the big bucks and owning the status as one of the most dangerous players nationwide.

Some critics believe that Sullinger should have pulled a Kevin Durant and bolted after the first year at Ohio State. He certainly was impressive enough and would have gone extremely high in the draft last offseason. 

Others agreed with his decision to stay put in Columbus. As a personal fan of receiving one's college degree in full, I believe he should take full advantage of great coaching and a four-year scholarship available to him at Ohio State.

The question is, will staying longer in college hurt Sullinger's rank in the draft later on?

Disadvantages include growing older which shortens one's NBA career, getting injured, or risking the possibility of looking weaker once teams and coaches have the time to game plan around him.

It's a dangerous move to risk one's career and future on playing more college ball, but there are some pluses.

The NCAA allows students to play basketball, or any other sport, for only four years total. There is only one national champion every season so, for a superstar like Sullinger, he has exactly four shots to lead a team to the most prestigious award in the sport.

Tenures in the NBA should last many times what players can participate in during college, particularly for recruits of such a caliber like Sullinger.

Putting your name on a NCAA Title is much less likely than leading a franchise to an NBA Championship and therefore, should be held in a higher regard.

You see talented players ditch college to go and make millions of dollars every single season. You watch them throw their programs under the bus in lieu of getting overpaid for the next 15 to 20 years of their lives.

Sullinger, however, has responded much to the opposite of what you would expect from a kid under the drinking age.

He chose to try to give the university that is allowing him a free education a national title in return. His talents are more than exceptional, but this is character unmatched in recent years by one of the league's best performers.

The NBA franchises take more into account than just point totals, field goal percentages, and rebounds per game.

They also ask themselves "Is this the kind of kid we want representing our team out on the court? Does he have not only the ability, but also the loyalty and self-control to be the face of this program for the next decade or more?"

Sullinger has proven through actions and not just words that he is all that with some to boot. It seemed to be a lost nature in these arrogant and selfish superstar athletes, but this Ohio State stud shows there are still a few good guys out there who still hold character in high regard.

Furthermore, Sullinger has increased his field-goal percentage and averaged more points this season from the last, keeping his rebounds per game at a constant throughout. To NBA recruiters, that is just icing on the cake.

In conclusion, Sullinger is setting an example that should be regarded publicly as a statement of worth. His draft status should not only improve, it should skyrocket. Look for this kid to make huge ripples in his career in what should be one of the best to watch for the next couple of years.