While E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham’s futures with the Ohio State men’s basketball program were two which were clearly pivotal to the team moving forward, another player had a big choice to make which also will have huge ramifications — Justice Sueing.
Sueing, who first transferred to Ohio State from Cal in 2019, averaged 10.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game over 31 games during the 2020-2021 season. He was a key starter on an Ohio State team that came minutes away from winning the Big Ten Tournament and subsequently earned a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament. But towards the end of that season, Sueing sustained a groin injury that resurfaced in the fall, and limited him to just two games this past season as well.
But today, Sueing officially announced that he plans on returning to Ohio State for a sixth year. After the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled and the following season was so heavily impacted by COVID-19, all players were gifted an extra year of eligibility. It’s unclear if this additional year was needed for Sueing to return, as he’s only played three seasons of college basketball (and sat out two due to the old transfer rule and injury).
Can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be. We have some unfinished business Buckeye Nation ♥️ pic.twitter.com/mKhHvCNetJ— Justice Sueing (@JusticeSueing) April 8, 2022
Sueing — who is a sixth-year academically — played two seasons at Cal before transferring to Ohio State in 2019. He sat out the 2019-20 season under the old transfer rule, before competing during the 2020-2021 season as previously mentioned. He played a combined 31 minutes over two games this season before missing the final 30 games with that groin/abdominal injury. Holtmann said in late February that he was “actively recruiting” both Sueing and Seth Towns to return to Ohio State in the fall, given the absolute dearth of frontcourt players on their roster heading into the 2022-2023 season.
Ohio State missed Sueing’s versatility in the worst way this past season. The Buckeyes relied heavily on Liddell and Branham, with 45% of their offense coming from just those two players. Sueing averaged 14.1 PPG during his two seasons at Cal, and then 10.7 during the 2020-2021 season. He undoubtedly would have taken some of the load off of Ohio State’s two main scorers.
The Buckeyes also missed his rebounding and ballhandling abilities, as well as his defensive versatility. While not an elite defender by any means, at 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds Sueing is a valuable piece on defense who can guard an opposing team’s guards or wings if needed. Coincidentally, two of Ohio State’s biggest weaknesses this season were defensive rebounding and perimeter defense. Makes you think!
With Liddell departing for the NBA, Kyle Young and Justin Ahrens moving on, and Seth Towns’ future still to be determined, Sueing’s return is huge news for Chris Holtmann and his staff. The only other frontcourt players remaining from last season (aside from Sueing) were Gene Brown, Zed Key, and Kalen Etzler — who redshirted last season.
Regardless of whether Branham chooses to stay in the NBA Draft or return next season, Sueing will without a doubt play a major role in Ohio State’s success next season.
Welcome back, Justice!