The NBA Draft on June 28 is creeping up quickly and Jared Sullinger is already learning a crucial lesson as he prepares to make the jump from college to the pros.
In this business, it is best to have thick skin.
The 6-foot-9 center out of Ohio State is probably the most scrutinized player entering this draft class.
Scratch that. Sullinger is the most scrutinized player in the 2012 NBA Draft.
But for how much longer?
Slated to go sixth or somewhere in the mid-first round depending on the mock draft board of your choice, no other projected lottery pick is having to deal with the amount of questions about his inability to get off the floor and lack of shooting range. And, at a hefty 268 pounds (has been listed as much as 280 pounds), Sullinger’s weight throws up a red flag for some front offices.
Then again, dealing with the criticism is nothing new for Sullinger.
“A lot of people have been sleeping on me, and it’s kind of fun,” Sullinger said at the NBA combine in Chicago. “All my life I’ve kind of been known as the underdog.
“People said I wasn’t going to be able to play at the college level, and I did. Some people said I wasn’t going to be able to play at the high school level. Some people said I was too overweight to play at the middle school level. I’m used to it.”
When it comes to having something to prove, the kid sounds like an old pro.
And knowing where he is going, that attribute will serve him well as long as he puts in the time and work to wake people up from the “sleeper” tag that has been slapped on him during Sullinger’s young basketball career in high school and college.
Then there is the weight issues Sullinger will likely have to overcome early on in his NBA career.
You can just imagine how many times he will have to answer those types of questions.
During the combine in Chicago, his body fat was the sixth worst. But chances are even that number flew under the radar knowing there were eight other players with a body fat of 10 percent or higher than Sullinger’s.
Either teams will shy away from Sullinger tipping the scales at 268 or merely consider him an undersized player who is able to use his weight to his advantage. Ask Kevin Love or Zach Randolph how they coped with all the question marks regarding their weight.
No Sullinger is not going to be in their NBA All-Star class out of the gate, but some guys simply know how to handle themselves and Sullinger seems like one of those guys.
Coming out of Ohio State, the 20-year old Sullinger averaged 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game as a sophomore and is solid on the block. He is a thick forward with good hands and is not afraid to use his big frame to bang down low.
While meeting with one team last week, Sullinger admitted that he coped with some back spasms last season that hampered him from working out at full strength, but he said he has overcome that setback and is working on his conditioning and weight leading up to the NBA Draft.
“Can I play defense? Can I jump?” Sullinger said in a separate interview.
“Will I be able to play the four? Am I a five? Can I shoot the basketball? Will I be able to guard the four? It’s multiple questions that people are going to ask. Everybody’s been asking that for years. I’m kind of used to it.”
He just let people know he is not the one who has an issue. He is used to it.
Sounds like the critics will have to find something or someone else to scrutinize.