Men's basketball: Mullens gets early start on college life
June 16, 2008 3:14 AM
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
James D. DeCAMP | DISPATCH
B.J. Mullens, a former standout at Canal Winchester, is living with three freshman teammates at Ohio State.
B.J. Mullens traveled to Italy two months ago to play basketball. He was invited to visit Paris
with another all-star team next week.
Instead, the closest the 7-foot-1 Ohio State freshman will get to an Eiffel Tower is standing
next to Greg Oden.
"I talked with coach (Thad) Matta and he said he didn't want me to leave," Mullens said. "He
wants team chemistry, wants us to have a bond and wants us to get comfortable with each other."
Chemistry was a subject the OSU men's basketball team took too long to master last season. By
the time it did, its NCAA Tournament hopes had gone up in smoke. The players salved their wounded
pride by winning the National Invitation Tournament.
Sophomore David Lighty was gone for parts of June and July last summer to play for USA
Basketball in the under-19 world championships in Serbia. Freshman Kosta Koufos was gone for part
of July and all of August after Matta reluctantly allowed him to play for Greece in the under-18
European championships in Spain. The two missed not only classes but strength and conditioning
training and gym time with their teammates and other former Buckeyes who play in the Schottenstein
Center during the summer.
No such interruptions are foreseen this summer. Mullens, from Canal Winchester, three other
freshmen and two junior-college transfers moved on campus yesterday to join the rest of the team
for the start of summer classes today. They will remain there until late August.
In an arrangement like the one two years ago involving fab freshmen Lighty, Oden, Mike Conley
Jr. and Daequan Cook, Mullens will share a suite in the team dormitory with fellow freshmen William
Buford, Anthony Crater and Walter Offutt.
The four comprise what Rivals.com rated the nation's No. 6 recruiting class for 2008. Mullens is
ranked No. 1 among all players in the class, the same ranking given Oden in 2006.
Mullens hopes to be able to measure himself against Oden in the gym this summer, although the
NBA's No. 1 draft pick last year has not been cleared for full-speed scrimmaging after missing his
rookie season because of knee surgery. Oden and Conley, who left Ohio State after one season, are
enrolled for summer classes and figure to be fixtures in the gym.
If not Oden, Mullens still will have a load to bear in 6-8 Dallas Lauderdale. "He's getting real
strong and was pushing me around when I was up there a few weeks ago," Mullens said.
A lot of Mullens' time recently has been spent on conditioning and flexibility more than lifting
"I talked to him about taking a little break from basketball … (so he can) be mentally fresh
when he starts" college, Canal Winchester coach Kent Riggs said. "He's played so much basketball. I
told him to enjoy his last couple of weeks of being a senior."
It could be Mullens' last break for a while. By this time next year, he could be auditioning for
NBA teams, the third Ohio State center in as many years to leave after one season. Two online mock
drafts have him among the top four picks in 2009.
Mullens said his circumstances a year from now will dictate his decision. He said Oden made a
"great choice" because the knee injury "would have dropped his stock a lot." Koufos, on the other
hand, would have improved his stock by staying another year, Mullens said.
What Mullens does "all depends," he said. "I haven't really thought about it. Hopefully I'll
have that chance."