- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Jared is 10 years younger than J.J. and six years younger than Julian. If he wanted to play, he had to catch up. He could make free throws when he was three years old. He practiced drop steps in his parents' bedroom when he was four. One time J.J.'s high school team got blown out, and afterward, he recalls, "Jared walked up to me and said, 'Bro, y'all are terrible.' I said, 'I know.' He said, 'Why don't y'all play hard? I don't never want to play like that.' " Jared was six. At around that age, he would watch games on TV and point out to his family when a lack of weakside help defense allowed a backdoor pass for a basket.
He was fat and he sucked his thumb into his middle-school years, but he never felt socially awkward. "Jared is the type of person who really doesn't care what other people think," Barbara says. He just cared about what he wanted: to be the best basketball player in the family.
Satch coached all three of his boys at various levels, including Julian and Jared at Northland High. He did not force them to play basketball, but if they wanted to play, they had to play his way. Satch is a cement truck of a man who doesn't speak as much as bellow. He tells his players all the time, "You play the game the way you live your life." If his sons failed to grab a rebound, he said it was because they didn't take out the garbage the night before. If they didn't defend, it was because they didn't do their homework.
When Jared was a sophomore, he fell behind in his schoolwork. He was still eligible, but Satch benched him for a district tournament game anyway. Northland lost for the first time all year, and Jared was inconsolable. He blamed himself. He cried and told the seniors, "I'll never do that to you again." What he meant was that he'd never do that to anybody again.
Jared began to play with a purity of purpose that is startling even today. He can goof around with his teammates until five minutes before tip-off; then, he says, "I flip a switch and go play basketball." Matta adds, "He takes the first four minutes of the game and gets a feel for what's going on. From there, he plays the mental side of it." By the final buzzer, opponents don't know if Sullinger will score on them or pull nickels out of their ears.
Both his life and his game are free of clutter. He does not have any tattoos because he likes his arms the way they are, and besides, "My mommy—she told me she don't like tattoos." He has never picked his jersey number; in high school he wore Julian's 34, and at Ohio State he wears J.J.'s 0. He shakes his head when his brothers buy expensive clothes.
"What's the point of having that?" he asks. "Just give me a nice pair of Levi's."
What would he buy if he had a lot of money? A nice house, he says—for his parents. What about for himself? He thinks for a minute.
"I'd like to buy front-row tickets to a Jay-Z concert," he says. "If I could meet Michael Jordan and Jay-Z, I'm pretty much set."
But that's not a material item.