I was scrolling through stats from last season yesterday — as a normal person does on one of their two days off work per week — and saw one name popping up over and over within the Big Ten ranks in tons of different categories: Justice Sueing.
The Hawaii-native and California transfer wasn’t one of Ohio State’s leading scorers, rebounders, or assist men last season. He wasn’t stealing too many headlines from E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington Jr., and he wasn’t “the straw that stirs the drink” — that was CJ Walker. But Sueing contributed in so many different ways to last season's Ohio State basketball team, that some weak points of the team were actually glossed over due to how fluid and versatile Sueing was from start to finish.
Sueing was like a cement truck over a pothole-filled Columbus street, filling in the small cracks (Ohio State’s lack of depth at point guard for a short time) as well as the massive craters that needed attention (Ohio State’s general lack of size and difficulties rebounding the basketball). While much of his work went unnoticed, he truly was one of the most valuable and well-rounded players in the Big Ten last season.
To explain just how unique Sueing is, let’s take a look at last year’s stat line (per game averages) for the soon-to-be redshirt senior. I also added where each ranks on last year’s team:
10.7 points (3rd)
5.5 rebounds (3rd)
1.5 assists (4th)
36.1% 3PT (5th)
75% FT (5th)
As you can see, Sueing contributed in nearly every counting stat you can imagine, and basically spent time at every position on the floor at one point or another as well. But because he was rarely the leading scorer or rebounder in any game, much of this slipped by the general public. After looking at where he ranks just on last year’s Ohio State team, I decided to extrapolate out to the whole conference and see how many players in the B1G put up the same numbers (or better) as Sueing last season. The requirements were (to be clear):
At least 10.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game, while shooting 75% or better from the charity stripe and 36% or better from beyond the arc.
It turns out, there were only three other players in the conference who put up the these numbers or better. All three of them were All-Big Ten first or second team (Sueing was not first, second, or third team), and all three have already announced that they will enter the 2021 NBA Draft. The three players are:
- Ayo Dosumnu (ILL) First Team All-Big Ten, First Team All-American
- Franz Wagner (MICH) Second Team All-Big Ten
- Isaiah Livers (MICH) Second Team All-Big Ten
And then there’s Sueing, who is never mentioned in the same breath as any of these players.
Should he be? While he doesn’t excel in one particular area of the game like these other three do (Dosunmu is great at everything, Livers is an elite three-point shooter, and Wagner is a lanky shooter who also rebounds very well), Sueing is pretty darn good at every single thing that Chris Holtmann asks him to do on a basketball court. And to be grouped in with those three players says quite a bit about the versatility and skill he brought to last year’s team, as well as what he’ll bring this season.
If a gun was to your head and you had to guess who recorded the most double-doubles last season for Ohio State, who would your guess be? I — as well as many others — would probably guess Liddell. He was Ohio State’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, so it would make sense he would out together the most games recording 10 points and 10 of one other stat, right? Wrong.
Sueing’s four double-doubles last year were the most for any player on the team, ahead of Liddell’s three and Kyle Young/Zed Key’s one apiece. And it wasn’t like Sueing padded the stat sheet against early season non-conference foes, either. His four games recording 10 or more points and 10 or more rebounds all came in B1G play, and one of them was even on the road against Rutgers. At 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds, Sueing is no center, but he’s big and strong enough to tangle with most anybody on the boards. When you pair that with decent court vision and an acceptable jump shot, he becomes a really tough player for opposing team’s to prepare for.
He was also one of just four players to play in all 31 games for the Buckeyes last season, along with Duane Washington Jr., Justin Ahrens, and Zed Key. Like they always say, one of the best abilities you can have is availability.
And on top of all the numbers and stats, Sueing learned a new position on the fly in January when Walker missed four games with a thumb injury and Jimmy Sotos separated his shoulder. Ohio State literally did not have a point guard on the roster, so Sueing did his best Jae’Sean Tate impression and brought the ball up the floor for a few games — all 6-foot-7 and nearly 220 pounds of him.
Was he impressive filling in for Walker? No, not really. His 11:9 assist to turnover ratio during those four games wasn’t eye popping, but nobody was expecting him to turn into Chris Paul at a moment’s notice. Holtmann and the coaching staff simply needed someone to get the ball across the timeline, not turn it over too much, and help the team win games.
Well, the Buckeyes went 3-1 in Walker’s absence, and Sueing averaged 10.5 points, 7 rebounds, and just under 3 assists per game as the temporary point guard. How many teams have someone on the roster who can rip down 10-12 rebounds on any given day, but can also step in and run the point if necessary?
Yes, Liddell and Washington Jr. are the most talented players on the team, nobody is arguing that. Young is the most important player on this team, and few are arguing that either. Malaki Branham may have the highest pro upside of anyone on the team, so Sueing unfortunately can’t claim that accolade either.
But the man filled up the stat sheet last year in a way that only three other elite players in the Big Ten were able to do, and it was barely discussed. He was an irreplaceable and invaluable piece of last year’s team, and I’m sure he’ll play a vital role on the 2021-22 team as well, regardless of who returns to run it back again.