Oh, Jared Sullinger. I wish I had a time machine so I could go back to 2011 and give you this message and tell you all the mean things the draftniks are saying about you. Despite being a projected top 10 pick last year, maybe top five, you were stung by a brutal loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16, and decided to return to Columbus for your sophomore season. You were a hero!
"I wanted to make a statement that not everybody is using college basketball as a pit stop to go to the next level, that there's more than money and endorsements," Sullinger said. "There are championships that you've got to win at every level. That's what I pride myself on. I've won a championship all the way from elementary to now, and now I'm trying to look towards the bigger trophy in the national championship. I pride myself on winning. That's why I came back."
That is just what every fan of college basketball wants to hear from their players. That is how you become beloved on campus, and by idealistic sportswriters. That is how you make decisions you come to regret.
Sullinger had a sophomore year marked by injuries and falling draft stock. A week ago, multiple NBA doctors checked him out and found problems with his back. It could prematurely shorten his career, they say, and some have advised their teams not to take him in the first round. It comes out today that he has not been invited to attend the NBA Draft on Thursday, because a straw poll showed that teams aren't interested in him anywhere near the top 15.
Last year, the No. 5 overall pick would have received about $6.5 million guaranteed over his first two seasons, with team options for another two. If Sullinger slips south of 20, he'll make about a million a year. Not chump change, but also not "your family is set for life" money. Sure, there's a chance Sullinger's back would have raised red flags last year too, but propensity for injury is something teams are more willing to overlook if you're among the elite players coming out. We very much hope Sullinger still believes he "did the right thing."