Q&A with Jared Sullinger @ adidas Nations
Words. Austin Burton
Listening to Jared Sullinger, he wasn’t supposed to be the star who shined brightest in the penultimate game at the adidas Nations extravaganza in Dallas this past weekend.
At the three-stripes’ third annual event, where teams of young players from Europe, Canada, Asia, Africa and Latin America were brought in to play against the top rising juniors and seniors in the U.S., Sullinger (Northland H.S., Ohio) led the U.S. Class of 2010 group to a championship-game win over Canada, putting up 22 points and 10 boards. For the 6-foot-9 rising senior power forward, who averaged just under 20 points and 15 rebounds at Northland last season and is committed to Ohio State, it wasn’t the kind of stat line even he expected.
High School Hoop: How do you think you did in this tournament?
Jared Sullinger: I did alright. I was just playing basketball, not worrying about touches, just playing as a team player.
HSH: Did you make a point to play like that this weekend?
JS: Yeah. The coaches know where everybody is coming from; these are the top players in the country and everybody’s a star on their own team. Most people were doing what they normally do, but a selected few had to be a man, step back and say, “I’ll be a role player.”
HSH: What kind of player do you see yourself being at Ohio State?
JS: I see me being a glue-type big man that rebounds the ball in crunch time. I’ll make that defensive stop in crunch time.
HSH: What have you been working on with your game this summer?
JS: My ball-handling, my jump shot and my face-up game when I play against bigger defenders.
HSH: I’d imagine you get that opportunity to face bigger guys more during the AAU/summer circuit than during the high school season, right?
JS: Yeah, I don’t come across too many guys who are bigger than me in high school. In AAU, you can’t just overpower the bigger defenders ’cause they’ll just stand there. You have to use a maneuver to go around them or have some outside game to rely on.
HSH: Who guards you the toughest on the high school level?
JS: Everybody. Everybody is trying to stop you to prove a point, or to show off to the scouts. They all play me tough, trying to stop me from doing what I do.
HSH: Which player is toughest for you to guard?
JS: Probably Josh Smith (Kentwood H.S., Wash.) because he’s just too big. He’s huge.
HSH: Which players in the 2010 class have made the biggest strides this summer?
JS: Pretty much everybody. I don’t care if you’re No. 99 or No. 1, everybody came ready to play this year — guards, wings, bigs. Our whole class is tough.
HSH: Besides the adidas Nations, where else have you been playing this summer?
JS: I went to France with the 2K Sports All-American team. I was at the NBA Top 100 camp, the Amar’e Stoudemire camp, the LeBron Skills Academy, Peach Jam, the Super Showcase, AAU Nationals, and I still have the Elite 24 at Rucker Park.
HSH: So were you in the gym for the now-infamous Jordan Crawford dunk at LeBron camp?
JS: Yeah, I had a front-row seat. It wasn’t a big deal when it happened. Nike always has that policy of not taping pickup games, so nobody thought nothing of it. LeBron didn’t make a big deal out of the dunk, either; he came back down and got an and-one anyway.
HSH: Have you been working out with any NBA players this offseason?
JS: Yeah. They had some NBA guys here (at adidas Nations). Other than that, I’ll play at the Ohio State open gym, and Greg Oden and Mike Conley come through there.
HSH: When you’re on the court with pros, are you judging your game against theirs?
JS: Nah, I just go out there and play; I’m not gonna change my game for nobody, or just to show somebody I can get a shot off in front of Greg Oden. He’s in the NBA. You still gotta play your game, and not try to make some fancy plays you wouldn’t normally do. I do pick their brains, though. They’re already where I want to be, so I’ll get advice from them.