Justice Sueing Hopeful to Show “Best Version of Myself” in Pre-Draft Workouts and Pro Career After Overcoming Hurdles at Ohio State

By Griffin Strom on June 8, 2023 at 10:10 am
Justice Sueing
Joseph Maiorana – USA TODAY Sports

Just a couple weeks away from the 2023 NBA draft, Justice Sueing isn’t exactly a red-hot name on many mock draft boards. But that hasn’t stopped him from fighting for an opportunity at the highest level of the sport.

The former Buckeye forward participated in his fourth pre-draft workout for an NBA franchise Tuesday, competing at the Golden State Warriors’ practice facility, and still has two more scheduled with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Washington Wizards. During a post-workout Zoom call with media members, Sueing said the workout went “great” and that he’s just “trying to make a name for myself” one day at a time as June 22 looms closer.

For Sueing, who officially locked in his decision to remain in the NBA draft last week after already spending six years in the college ranks, proving he can shoot the ball at an efficient rate is among his top priorities. Sueing was a 30.7% 3-point shooter in two seasons at Cal and knocked down 36.1% of his triples in 2020-21 at Ohio State, but that number dropped to 28.9% in his final season.

Sueing also wants to highlight the versatility that made him a standout performer and fixture in the starting five at two different high-major programs.

“I'd say the biggest feedback I've gotten was just being able to shoot the ball at the next level. It's necessary. It's a must, really, with how talented and how skilled every player is at this level,” Sueing said. “And just going into every workout, I feel like my strength is just being able to do a little bit of everything on the court. Real versatile, can guard multiple positions as well as create and score for myself as well. So yeah, those things I feel like are all my strengths.”

As far as shooting goes, Sueing said “I feel like I've improved a lot since the end of the season.” Sueing hit 50% of his 3-pointers in the final six games of his collegiate career, and he said that trend has carried over as he’s showcased his game for NBA coaches, scouts and executives.

“Matching up with some of these players, these good players that are going through this process as well, I can see myself just really succeeding at this level.”– Justice Sueing on the pre-draft process

Sueing wasn’t exactly sure what his next step would be at the end of the 2022-23 season in March, but ultimately he couldn’t pass up a chance to pursue the dream he’s had since he was a kid growing up in Hawaii. And Sueing said the workouts have gone well enough to convince him he wouldn’t be out of place at the next level.

“I think the biggest thing is that I've been looking at this stage for a long time through my career. I had little hiccups at Ohio State just with a little bit of injuries,” Sueing said. “But now that I'm completely healthy, being able to go and compete at these workouts, matching up with some of these players, these good players that are going through this process as well, I can see myself just really succeeding at this level and definitely being at the professional level. I just put two feet in and I'm giving it my all.”

In terms of evaluations, impressions and performances, the pre-draft process is uniquely tailored to each individual. But Sueing has plenty of Buckeye teammates he can talk to if he needs advice or motivation. Malaki Branham and E.J. Liddell became the first players in the Chris Holtmann era at Ohio State to be drafted last year, and Brice Sensabaugh is expected to give the Buckeyes their second straight one-and-done first-round draft picks. Perhaps Duane Washington Jr., who has put up solid numbers in 79 appearances in the NBA after going undrafted in 2021, would have the most pertinent wisdom of all to imbue on a player in Sueing’s position.

Sueing hasn’t shied away from any such conversation, and said his former Buckeye teammates have been a source of strength as he continues to exhibit his skill set.

“Those are like my brothers, man. We've been in frequent talks since we've known each other. I talked to (Malaki) and I talked to E.J. actually the other day,” Sueing said. “They just give me their positive feedback, just something to motivate me, making sure that I'm heading into every workout on top of everything, showing my best side.”

And Sueing said Holtmann and the Ohio State coaching staff are “right there a call away” if he ever needs anything.

“The biggest thing they do is just they reach out and make sure that I'm good as far as my mental, anything I need physically, they're always there,” Sueing said. “That's the great thing about Ohio State. Once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye. They're always checking up on me and making sure that I'm at my best.”

Sueing’s career numbers at Ohio State were respectable, with the 6-foot-7 wing averaging 11.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game on nearly 45% from the field and better than 30% from 3-point range across 68 appearances. But it’s hard not to think he might have a bit more buzz as a draft prospect had his late collegiate tenure not been so disjointed.

Upon transferring in from Cal in 2019-20, Sueing had to sit out for the duration of the season before transfer policies were amended. Then, after starting every game for the Buckeyes the following year, he missed all but two games with an abdominal injury in 2021-22.

But while Sueing readily acknowledged those unfortunate circumstances might have held him back from realizing his true potential in college, he’s focused solely on making sure he maximizes his ability at the next level – whether that’s in the NBA or not.

“I definitely feel like it played a part in just my ability to continue to stack years on top of each other. Having those little hurdles, you don't realize how effective they are or how much they have an effect on you until you actually go through it," Sueing said. "So, the important thing is that I was able to overcome them, I was able to learn a lot about myself, my body, how to keep myself even stronger and healthier as I continue on my career going into this professional path. I definitely think it made a difference, but at the end of the day, I can't focus on what was, I'm onto what is, and that's what it is right now. 

“I'm just going into every workout just trying to show and display the best version of myself.”

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