Jared Sullinger
Jared Sullinger celebrates (Photo: Dave Londres for The Basketball Tournament)

Jared Sullinger arrived at LIU Brooklyn’s Steinberg Wellness Center on Saturday afternoon wearing a big smile on his face and donning a bright pink shirt with the words “UNEMPLOYED” inscribed across his chest in bold white lettering. The 6-foot-9 former Ohio State Buckeyes big man is playing in The Basketball Tournament as a member of Team Scarlet & Gray, a squad comprised of former Ohio State Buckeyes stars. Sullinger came in to replace an injured Greg Oden, and getting a chance to play with friends he’s known for almost a decade was a wonderful feeling for the big man. He didn’t even know there were NBA eyes watching him in person.

According to ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla, Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon was in attendance for Sullinger’s noon game against Bradley University’s alumni team Always a Brave on Saturday. It’s not hard to imagine why Langdon would go to the game. After all, LIU Brooklyn is just 10 minutes away from Barclays Center, and Sully fits Brooklyn’s current mission. The Nets are in a mode of rebuilding their team with prospects other teams might have given up on before they really got a chance in the league. Sullinger could come into a deal similar to the one that Anthony Bennett received last year when Brooklyn took a chance on the former number one overall pick.

But that wasn’t on his mind. Sullinger just went on the court and hooped with his brothers. He wasn’t worried about who was in the crowd, outside of one boisterous fan. Sullinger talked to Bryan Fonseca of Nets Daily about the Nets representative in attendance:

Sullinger says he had no idea of Fraschilla’s report, and that he’s not getting too caught up into it. Ultimately, it’s out of his hands, and he understands.

“That’s a shock to me,” he said regarding the Net rumor. “I’d take advantage of it because, you’ve got all these great basketball players under one roof, so why not?”

“The situation with me is, I can’t come calling the NBA, they have to call me,” he continued, humbly. “So now I just sit back and wait until somebody makes a call. If no one calls, there’s other options. At the same time, it’s all about myself.”

Jared Sullinger
Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner (Photo: Dave Londres for The Basketball Tournament)

Sullinger is enjoying the opportunity to play for Ohio State once again in The Basketball Tournament. He gushed endlessly about being able to play alongside his fellow Buckeyes. Current Portland Trail Blazers guard Evan Turner is an assistant coach on Team Scarlet & Grey, and Sullinger is playing alongside Jon Diebler, Aaron Craft, Dave Lighty, William Buford and a few other memorable Buckeyes. And he’s loving every minute of it.

Jared Sullinger was borderline dominant and made an impact all weekend during The Basketball Tournament’s “Super 16” round. In Sullinger’s first back-to-back basketball action since his short stint with the Toronto Raptors in January, he posted 21 points with nine rebounds on Saturday and followed that up with a 15-point, eight-rebound game on Sunday to help lead his team to the Final Four in Baltimore. He was doing work in the post, showing off his shooting range and looked as healthy as ever.

The Ohio State alumni are two wins away from winning the $2 million TBT prize. Sullinger undoubtedly dominated his matchups at TBT, proving that he has a lot left to offer an NBA team who might want him. The talent he showcased on ESPN over the weekend garnered attention from a wide-ranging audience – not just Brooklyn’s assistant general manager.

The main issue for Sullinger during his first five years in the NBA was his weight coupled with some health issues. His weight peaked at 320 pounds in 2016 as a member of the Boston Celtics during his final full season in the NBA (so far). He then signed with the Toronto Raptors in the summer of 2016 but only played 11 games before being traded to Phoenix, where he was promptly waived.

Sullinger is well aware that his weight is a problem for most teams, and he says he has made a concerted effort to do better in that area for himself and his career. Even professional athletes can also battle with eating disorders. Nearly 2 billion of the world’s adult population struggles with being overweight and nearly 700 million are battling obesity. He told Rob Oller of the Columbus Dispatch that his weight issues were “embarrassing:”

“I lost a year of basketball directly because of what I have done — my weight and my eating habits,” he said, explaining how his unwillingness to shed pounds led the Celtics to release him in 2016 and later contributed to the Toronto Raptors trading him to Phoenix on Feb. 23. The Suns cut him the next day.

“My biggest was 320, when I was finishing my fourth year with Boston (2015-2016),” the 25-year-old offered. “Honestly, it was embarrassing.”

Sullinger has cut down to 285 pounds as he takes the court in The Basketball Tournament. He told Bryan Fonseca of Nets Daily that he’s taking a more personal approach when it comes to combating his weight.

“With nobody watching, sometimes I just brushed it off,” he said, talking about his conditioning. “Now when nobody is watching, and I’ve done something wrong, I look at myself in the mirror and say ‘hey, I made a mistake.’”

Sullinger is well aware that his past has set him back to square one, back to where it all starts for most players: Out of the league and unemployed. But he’s striving to come back and better himself in the process.

Right now, Sullinger has to focus on $2 million prize waiting for one of The Basketball Tournament’s four final teams in Baltimore during the first week of August. While the money is a nice thing, and the NBA having an eye on him for a potential return is a great one, it’s clear what matters most to Sullinger isn’t so much to do with things on the court, but those off if instead: His health, being happy and getting to enjoy memories once again with people he cares about. He’ll let the basketball do the talking for him as he appreciates a healthier life and moments with some of his closest friends.


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