Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sully Pilots Miracle In Columbus

Freshman sensation Jared Sullinger has a new title at Ohio State: Leader of No. 1 team in the country. (Photo courtesy of Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Two years ago today, Captain Chesley Sullenberger became a national hero with his calm demeanor during what came to be known as the "Miracle on the Hudson." Two years later, a new "Sully" has emerged; and he has displayed the same unflappable resolve in the Midwest while leading an already-perennial Big Ten contender into the national elite. Call it the "Miracle in Columbus" if you will; and the pilot of the Ohio State Buckeyes' plane is none other than freshman superstar Jared Sullinger.

Barring a meltdown against Penn State later today, the Buckeyes should be the No. 1 team in the country in the new polls on Monday following top-ranked Duke's road loss to Florida State Wednesday night; and much of their success is a credit to Sullinger, who averages 17 points and 10 rebounds a night for one of the four remaining undefeated teams in the nation. Thad Matta has had many great teams since coming to Columbus from Xavier, including the 2007 squad led by Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. that reached the national championship game; but one would be hard pressed to find a former Ohio State player as talented as Sullinger, among the clear favorites for national player of the year honors. The only downside to the freshman's record is that he will almost certainly be playing in the NBA next season; but his coach has gone down that road many times with players ranging from Oden and Conley to reigning player of the year Evan Turner, drafted second overall this past year by the Philadelphia 76ers. "I've almost learned over the time, when the season ends, you kind of sift through the NBA process," said Matta. "Take a look at what's going to happen. Sort of sit down in the summer and say, 'Here's what we got, let's make it work."

What Matta has with Sullinger is something that almost no one envisioned would come to fruition so soon. Although the freshman forward received his fair share of hype before even suiting up in Columbus, he has already exploded onto the scene with a 40-point outburst earlier in the season against IUPUI while also recording eight double-doubles in the Buckeyes' 17-0 start. The best part about this young stud, you might ask? He doesn't let success go to his head, and knows where there is room for improvement. "I key in on rebounding," said Sullinger following Ohio State's victory over South Carolina, one in which he dominated the Gamecocks for 30 points and 19 boards. "If I'm not rebounding, then I'm not playing hard. Nineteen rebounds. I was really into the game."

Any time you can get a player like that, the results will speak for themselves, and Ohio State has nothing but great things headed their way as long as their freshman leader is on the floor. He may wear jersey No. 0, but Jared Sullinger has already taken this team to No. 1, and the goal for the Buckeyes may not necessarily be remaining in that position; but getting there on April 4th in Houston when the final buzzer sounds on the NCAA campaign.

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