To leave or not to leave? That is the question that Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones all answered with the response “Not To Leave.” With a potential NBA lockout I need to sign my deal EARLY because half of NBA rosters will be overseas. Fluff I’m looking forward to your thoughts on the next Sports Podcast
Three different players, three different announcements, all conveying the same, unconventional decision: Despite their status as projected top-five NBA draft picks, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Baylor’s Perry Jones III and North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes — all of whom are freshmen — just said no to the NBA. It’s surprising when any underclassman turns down that opportunity, but for three of the potential first five picks to come back to school is unprecedented in the modern era.
And there may be more. Two other probable freshmen lottery picks, Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones of Kentucky, are still mulling over their decisions. The fact that they have not yet announced their intentions (the deadline for doing so is Sunday) indicates that one, if not both, could also return.
When Sullinger initially made his declaration in a Newark, N.J., locker room following the Buckeyes’ loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16, many observers, including this one, assumed it was just an emotional outburst that would be followed by the inevitable retraction. Even Sullinger’s coach, Thad Matta, had been skeptical during the season whenever Sullinger assured him he was coming back. “My past record shows that it usually doesn’t happen that way,” Matta said in reference to the multitude of underclassmen he has lost to the pros over the last five years. Sullinger went so far as to invite Matta to draw up a contract for him to sign.
Sullinger made the promise so often that by the time he made his pronouncement, Matta was not surprised. “Jared wants to get better. I think he enjoys the college game,” Matta said. “He’s not one of those guys who just wants to go to the NBA so he can say he’s there.”
As for the lockout, Sullinger told me that he didn’t even know about it until earlier that day. “I kid you not,” he said. “I just found out about the lockout two hours ago when a professor came up and told me about it.” What he did know is that it is difficult to succeed in the NBA, especially when you’re an undersized center who needs to trim a lot of baby fat. For all his hubris, Sullinger possesses a healthy humble streak. “I believe in my ability, but at the same time it’s a whole different animal at the next level. It would take a lot of adjusting,” he said. “A lot of people use college as a pit stop to go to the next level, but you only get this time once in your life. You might as well enjoy it.”
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