After reading Sports Illustrated’s article on Ohio State freshman sensation Jared Sullinger, I was struck by his off-the-court personality more than his superior talent as, arguably, the nation’s most dominant player. The article spoke of his knowledge of the game, his leadership ability with his teammates and his modesty.
As anyone who is a regular visitor to this blog space knows, I host The Jerry Tarkanian Show on 1430 ESPN radio out of Fresno every Tuesday night during the college basketball season. As I read the piece on Sullinger, it reminded me of what Jerry always says about his favorite player - Larry Johnson.
He had not read the SI article, so I gave him a brief summary and asked him to explain the two great players similarities. “First of all,” Tark began, “Larry is the best person I ever met as well as the best player.”
When asked to tell our listeners a story I admit I’ve heard on numerous occasions, he said, “When we signed Larry, we were coming off of an Elite 8 appearance - and all five of our starters were coming back.” Larry Johnson was ranked as the best overall prospect in the nation, actually the first All-America UNLV had ever signed, albeit out of junior college. There was no doubt that wherever he went, he was going to, not only become an instant starter, but have a major impact on the national scene.
“Everybody knew that Larry would start. It was going to be either Moses Scurry or David Butler who he’d replace. This was tough because Scurry and Butler were best friends; they were roommates at UNLV and had been since junior college. On the first day, when the reporters asked Larry about starting, he talked about how he’d watched the Rebels on replays late at night and would be happy to help the team - even if it meant coming off the bench. Of course, he was a starter but just the way he handled it, was just wonderful for our ball club. We never had any problems.”
And they won the national championship. The following year, they entered the Final Four undefeated before being beaten by Duke in the semis.
Larry Johnson and Jared Sullinger are great examples of Zig Ziglar’s signature line:
“You can get whatever you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want.”