Sullinger reflects on time at KSU

Chris Gates

Daniel R. Doherty | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Senior forward Julian Sullinger is in his final season as a Kent State men’s basketball player, and is about to graduate as one of the most dependable players to ever come through the program.

He recently moved in to 11th place in Kent State basketball history with 116 games played last night against Ohio and has been a part of two different teams that won the Mid-American Conference’s East Division and played in the NCAA Tournament.

As Sullinger approaches the season’s final stretch, principal sports reporter Chris Gates sat down with him to discuss his career as a player as well as his life after basketball:


Games/started: 25/21

Minutes per game: 23.1

Points per game: 6.9

Rebounds per game: 4.7

Shooting percentage: 59.5 percent

Favorite artist: “My favorite music artist by far is Jay-Z. I have every CD of Jay-Z.”

Favorite movie: “My favorite movie would be any of the Rockys. I live off Rocky. That’s what we grew up looking at. All my brothers grew up watching Rocky.”

Favorite sport (other than basketball): “I’m probably going to go with football. If I could do it all over again I’d think about trying to put the pads on and play a little bit.”

What initially got you into the game of basketball?

My dad. He was a coach so I’d just always be a gym rat. I always used to want to be with my dad. We always thought Dad was Superman. I was always with him.

With your older brother J.J. having such a successful career at Ohio State and your younger brother Jared, being a highly touted high school prospect, have you ever felt any pressure to live up to the Sullinger name in basketball?

It really was never pressure put on by the family, by any means. Maybe by the media, or maybe other people outside of the family may have tried to put pressure on me. My family (never) forced me to play basketball. It was just something that we all liked to do.

What has it been like having to match up against guys that are bigger than you so often in your career?

It’s been fun playing against bigger guys. It’s been maybe more a challenge at first because in my younger years . I played outside a little bit more.

Coming here, that was a role I had to accept. I think after a while you kind of get more used to it. You’ve got to more use your smarts and your quickness than just your height and ability. I’m under-matched when it comes to size, mostly, wherever I play.

You’ve been a pretty durable player throughout your career, as you’re approaching your third straight season of 30 or more games played. What have you been able to do to make sure you’re able to play the full schedule season after season?

To tell you the truth, knock on wood, I’ve never really got a major injury. My mom always calls me the man of steel. Just by the grace of God, I guess I just never really got hurt too bad.

What has your experience been like this year compared to the first three years of playing at Kent State?

The thing about this year is having a whole new set of guys. We basically have the same principles that I’ve always had here. It’s been real fun. To be able to see us trying to pull it all together as March comes; it’s been a real great time here at Kent.

What kind of goals do you have for the rest of the season?

The main thing is playing with pride. Playing with pride and playing with execution, playing every game like it’s your last. Me and Jordan Mincy before every game, because I came here with Jordan, we tell each other ‘all we’ve got is seven guaranteed games left. Play it with all you can.’

Looking back, is there one moment that sticks out as a highlight or greatest moment from your college basketball career?

I remember my freshman career I really didn’t play too much. I remember we were playing against Miami and a couple players were in foul trouble (or) not playing up to their ability. I came out there, got a couple buckets at Miami and we ended up winning on the road – a place that (former player) DeAndre Haynes hadn’t won in his whole career.

Coming back here at home we played them again, and I had my career high in rebounds. We were down 19-4 and I remember I broke the run and we ended up coming back and winning. I think that was the most memorable moment.

Have you thought about life after Kent State basketball at all?

First and foremost, I’m going to finish and get my degree. Second of all, what I want to do is play professionally if that’s an opportunity. If that’s not an opportunity then I’m going to go out here in the real world and do something with that.

What do you want your lasting image to be when people look back on Kent State basketball and think about Julian Sullinger?

A person that works hard whenever the lights come on. And off the court, just someone that’s genuinely a good person. People have their moments when they may have made bad decisions or done bad things. But overall, just for everyone to know that I always mean well with whatever I do.

Contact principal sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].