From Terrelle Pryor to Maurice Clarett to Jim Tressel, Ohio State has give Big Ten fans its fair share of bad apples through the years. For that reason, many in the conference are predisposed to dislike anything that comes out of Columbus.
This past winter, though, with bad news swirling around the Buckeye football program, one young basketball player proved to fans everywhere that you can't judge a book by its Scarlett and and Gray cover by carrying himself with poise and integrity beyond his years.
Jared Sullinger took the Big Ten by storm from the opening tip of his college career. He posted double-doubles in Ohio State's first two games of the season, but that was just a warm up. He put up a breathtaking 40 points and 13 rebounds in a game against IUPUI, then followed that up with 30 points and 19 rebounds against South Carolina.
By the time conference play rolled around, Sullinger was already the talk of not only the Big Ten, but the entire college basketball world.
Once in the league schedule, little slowed the big freshman down. He was held under double figure points only once and had 11 double-doubles of points and rebounds. Even in Ohio State's two conference losses to Wisconsin and Purdue, Sullinger played well and was a big part of keeping the Bucks in the games.
As impressive as his freshman campaign was on the court, however, it was Sullinger's conduct off it that was really worth taking notice of. After making this video with his teammates...
...Sullinger embraced the wrath of Minnesota fans by asking to take a student sign lampooning his performance home to Columbus with him from Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
Later in the season, after he alleged he was spit on following Ohio State's loss at Wisconsin, Sullinger walked away from the incident without confrontation, a move few many years older than the freshman probably would have made in the same situation.
Finally, he made a stop at Penn State's locker room at Conseco Fieldhouse following the Big Ten Tournament Championship game to congratulate the Nittany Lions on earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament. It was an unnecessary class move, and it speaks volumes about Sullinger's character.
In the spring, Sullinger announced he was returning to Ohio State for his sophomore season. It was unexpected, given his status as a likely top NBA pick, but not surprising given the way Sullinger carried himself much of the season. Big Ten fans certainly won't like seeing him back on the court, but hopefully, after his conduct during his freshman season, they'll appreciate the way he acts off it.