Jared Sullinger - WNEM TV 5

Jared Sullinger

(Source: Ohio State Athletics) (Source: Ohio State Athletics)
(Source: Ohio State Athletics) (Source: Ohio State Athletics)
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#0 F, Sophomore, Ohio State Buckeyes:

(RNN) - The pressure is on Ohio State sophomore Jared Sullinger, who could have been a top-five pick in the NBA Draft last year.

But with the NBA lockout looming, last spring was an uncertain time for Sullinger and a handful of future millionaires. He said after last year's loss in the NCAA Tournament that he would return and try to help the Buckeyes win the national title in 2012.

He trimmed about 30 pounds off his 6'10" frame, and at 265 pounds he looks less like a wide-body and more like a sleek, NBA power forward. Alas, the slimmer Sullinger has taken criticism for being less lethal in the paint and generally not as amazing as everyone expected.

However, the Columbus, OH, native has been pretty great any way you look at it. He averaged a double-double for his hometown college, and those 17 points and nine rebounds per game averages earned him Big Ten Player of the Year honors and helped his team capture a share of the conference championship. Again, he's projected as one of the top players in this year's talent-laden draft. But how close to the top will depend on how well he plays the rest of the way.

Buckeyes fans may not know what to wish for.

The Buckeyes are a young team this year, with only one senior who plays a major role. Next year, if Sullinger returns, he'll have a better team around him that could make him look better and give OSU a better shot at hoisting the gold trophy. That could mean an extra million or two on his professional contract.

If Sullinger has a subpar tourney and OSU bows out early, he might choose to return for one more title run. If he's red-hot on the sport's biggest stage and leads his team to the Final Four and beyond, he's on to the next level.

Copyright 2012 the Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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