Sullinger slips to Celtics at No. 21 pick

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Weeks of speculation and scrutiny for Jared Sullinger finally came to an end on Thursday when the former Ohio State star was selected by the Boston Celtics with the No. 21 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

Thought to have been a potential top-5 selection a season ago, Sullinger opted to return to Ohio State for his sophomore season, where he led the Buckeyes to the 2012 Final Four. The Columbus native, however, saw his draft stock slide when reports that he had been medically red flagged by NBA teams were made public earlier this month. As a result of both the report and draft projections that slotted him to be picked in the late-teens or early-20s, Sullinger was not invited to Newark, N.J. for the draft.

The 6-foot-9 forward missed two games in Dec. 2011 with a case of back spasms. He also missed all but six minutes of a Dec. 17 OSU win over South Carolina with a foot injury, but remained healthy through the Buckeyes run to the Final Four, earning the East Region's Most Outstanding Player award along the way.

Named an All-American in each of his two seasons at Ohio State, Sullinger averaged 17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per night over the course of his college career. In addition to being named the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year in 2011, he also earned a pair of first team all-Big Ten selections and was named the 2011 Big Ten and National Freshman of the Year.

Sullinger is the eighth player to be drafted out of Ohio State since coach Thad Matta took over the program in 2004. Other Buckeyes drafted under Matta's watch in Columbus include Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Daequan Cook (2007), Kosta Koufos (2008), B.J. Mullens (2009), Evan Turner (2010), and Jon Diebler (2011).

"Boston will be getting a quality person and a tremendous basketball player," Matta said. "Jared was an integral part of our success the last two years and I suspect he will be equally successful in the years to come. This is a day the Sullinger family has been looking forward to for many years. I know they are proud of Jared's accomplishments and will be avid supporters throughout his professional career."

Another former Buckeye currently playing in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns' Michael Redd, said that he's been impressed by what he's seen in the time he's spent with Sullinger.

"The young man is skilled," Redd said. "His basketball IQ is off the charts. He has got to work and put the time in but I can see him having a long career in the NBA."

In joining the Celtics, Sullinger becomes part of a frontline that currently consists of Brandon Bass, Ryan Hollins, JaJuan Johnson, Sean Williams and Greg Stiemsma. The anchor of Boston's frontcourt, Kevin Garnett, is currently a free agent and is contemplating retirement. The Celtics also selected Syracuse center Fab Melo with the No. 22 pick in Thursday's draft.

The Celtics went 39-27 in the shortened 2012 NBA season, losing to the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Last season's No. 21 pick, Nolan Smith, earned $1,306,920 in his rookie season.

The next step in the Northland high school product's career will be joining the Celtic's NBA Summer League team, which will play its first game on July 16 in Las Vegas.