Ohio State men's basketball power rankings: No. 2 Justice Sueing
With the promise of fans in the stands and a return to normalcy, Ohio State will open the 2021-22 season with an exhibition game against Indianapolis on November 1. Eight days later, Akron will come to Value City for the first official game, a visit that canceled last year when COVID-19 delayed the start of the season.
The Buckeyes will bring a 15-man roster to their sideline this season, one with unprecedented experience that features two players in their sixth years of college basketball and four others in their fifth. Third-year forward E.J. Liddell is the first Ohio State player to return after being named first-team all-Big Ten since Aaron Craft did so in 2013-14, and his decision to return after exploring his NBA draft stock has the Buckeyes opening the season picked to finish fourth in a joint media preseason poll conducted by The Dispatch and The Athletic.
With all of that in mind, The Dispatch is counting down to the start of the season with our annual power rankings. These rankings are an educated guess at which players will have the most significant on-court impact during the course of the entire season and will feature each player on the roster.
The rankings continue today with Justice Sueing.
No. 2 – Justice Sueing
Class: Graduate (fifth year)
Height/weight: 6 feet 6 / 210 pounds
Jersey number: 14
A three-star prospect from Santa Ana (California) Mater Dei, Sueing signed with California after also landing offers from Hawaii, Montana, San Francisco, Vanderbilt, and Utah. He averaged 18.2 points per game as a senior and was ranked the No. 19 player from California, the No. 45 power forward in the nation and the overall No. 171 national recruit in the 247Sports.com composite database.
There, he established himself as the best player on a pair of bad teams. The Golden Bears went 16-49 and coach coach Wyking Jones was fired following an 8-23 record in 2018-19, leading Sueing to opt to transfer. Sueing narrowed his decision to either a school on the West Coast or one in the Midwest and, after taking visits to San Diego State and Ohio State, picked the Buckeyes partially out of a desire to challenge himself by moving out of his comfort zone. ESPN ranked him as the 13th-best “sit one” transfer that offseason.
As a sophomore, Sueing led California in scoring and rebounding at 14.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, good for 12th and 13th best, respectively, in the Pac-12. As a freshman, he finished second in scoring at 13.8 points and added 5.4 rebounds per game.
Although he had a full year to acclimated to a new conference, time zone and climate, Sueing did a lot of watching during the 2020-21 season after suffering a foot injury that required surgery January 14, 2020, sidelining him for a few months. The Lisfranc injury required a screw to be inserted into his left foot, and the need to have it removed kept him in Columbus for a few extra weeks when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and made all non-essential medical procedures more difficult to schedule.
Need to know
Sueing is the first Hawai’i native to play for Ohio State. Sueing shares his first name with his father, who was given the name by his father after he returned to the United States after fighting for the Marines in the Vietnam War. He was recruited by Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann while he was at Butler.
Ohio State men's basketball:Justice is more than just a name for Ohio State senior forward Sueing
Sueing can play the ukulele and has been described by third-year forward E.J. Liddell as “laid-back Hawai’ian, chill.”
After sitting out one year at Ohio State, Sueing began the season listed as one of 25 impact transfers by Jon Rothstein and immediately slotted into a significant role for the Buckeyes. He scored 12 points in the first 12 minutes and finished with 19 points and had eight rebounds in the season opener against Illinois State. It was the best scoring effort for an Ohio State player making his debut since Jared Sullinger hit that number as a freshman in a 102-61 win against North Carolina A&T in the 2010-11 season opener.
Along with Duane Washington Jr., Sueing was one of two Ohio State players to start all 31 games for the Buckeyes. He passed the 1,000-point career scoring mark in a January 3 loss at Minnesota and the 500 rebound mark when he pulled down eight in a loss to Illinois on March 6.
A small forward by trade, Sueing was thrust into the backcourt when mid-season injuries decimated the position and proved capable of handling the ball and initiating the offense while remaining productive.
Among the attributes Holtmann particularly prized about Sueing was his ability to get to the free-throw line. He finished 55th nationally in free-throw rate according to KenPom.com, the best mark of his career.
For the season, Sueing was Ohio State’s third-leading scorer (10.7 points per game), tied for second in rebounding average (5.5) and tops in steals with 29. Sueing shot 54.0% from two (87 for 161) and 36.1% from three (22 for 61), both career-best marks. He scored a season-high 22 points in an overtime Big Ten tournament title game loss to Illinois and averaged 13.3 points and 6.5 rebounds during Ohio State’s four games in the conference tournament.
He also dealt with an undisclosed groin injury that did hamper him during the postseason, forcing him to keep a hot towel on the area during timeouts and limiting his mobility and effectiveness in the NCAA Tournament. Sueing had only seven points and two rebounds in 34 minutes in the loss to Oral Roberts.
“I had a hot pack on my groin to make sure I kept it warm so it didn’t tighten up on me,” he said. “It hurt a lot, but it wasn’t anything too crazy I couldn’t handle. I was tough enough to get through it.”
Sueing enters the year with 1,219 career points and 528 rebounds.
After proving himself capable of impacting the game in multiple ways, Sueing will be expected to do that again and add more to his plate in what is likely his final season at Ohio State. Voted as one of Ohio State’s four team captains this season, Sueing will reprise his role as a rim-attacking slasher from the wing who will also be asked to reprise his role at the point.
“I think Justice is a guy who you’ll see in those (playmaking) moments more,” he said. “In the Illinois (tournament) game, down three, he had the ball in his hands late. He made a play, got an and-one, scored. You could see the ball in his hands as a playmaker, for sure.”
Maintaining an aggressive mindset will help. Although he brought an increased physical attitude down the stretch, Sueing had a two-point effort in 15 minutes in a home win against Rutgers on December 23 and went scoreless while playing 17 minutes in a win at Maryland on February 8. His behind-the-back pass in the final minutes that was picked off for an easy basket helped turn the tide in a home showdown loss to Michigan.
He also needs to return to full health, saying prior to the start of practice that it took months for his groin to heal and that rest was the biggest factor.
All of that aside, Sueing remains a mismatch for opposing teams and a likely every-game starter.
“I think you’ll see Justice Sueing take another step offensively,” Holtmann said. “He’ll clearly play both positions and primary ball-handling role whether he’s playing the wing spot or even potentially a backup point guard role some for sure or even a point guard role at some point. I think the ball will be in his hands a fair amount.”
Justice Sueing:Settling into well-rounded role for Ohio State
Previous power rankings
No. 3 – Kyle Young
No. 4 – Jamari Wheeler
No. 5 – Zed Key
No. 6 – Meechie Johnson Jr.
No. 7 – Justin Ahrens
No. 8 – Malaki Branham
No. 9 – Cedric Russell
No. 10 – Joey Brunk
No. 11 – Jimmy Sotos
No. 12 – Gene Brown III
No. 13 – Seth Towns
No. 14 – Harrison Hookfin
No. 15 – Kalen Etzler