Taren Sullivan Main Pic

Sullivan driven by life experience to excel at basketball

BAL helped to broaden Sullivan’s horizons

WHEN Rivers Hoopers player Taren Sullivan decided to pursue basketball in high school, he was driven by a long-term life vision he had for himself. On the way to reaching his dream, he understood that only strong doses of hard work and determination would suffice.

There was also a curve ball thrown his way, he played baseball, leaving him with a dilemma about which direction to follow. Only after a discussion with his mother, did the 25-year-old decide to go the basketball route.

In Sullivan’s view, basketball would give him the best opportunity to access college and becoming a professional player. He was not wrong.

Taren Sullivan Main Picture
Taren Sullivan, left, knows they have to win big against GNBC.  Picture: Getty Images

“I was going back and forth between basketball and baseball, my whole life. It never hit me until high school how much I enjoyed basketball,” said Sullivan, who attended Bath High School in his hometown of Lima, Ohio.

“I told my mom that I wanted to go to college. We knew if I did, basketball was the sport that would allow me to get a shot at college because we could not afford it. So I had to dedicate everything I had to basketball and do everything possible to get a scholarship.”

The hard work and dedication to basketball paid off as Sullivan received a scholarship from division two school, the University of Findlay in Ohio. While still playing basketball, the forward also focused on his studies and left college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Strength and Conditioning in 2018.

“The situation worked out because every off-season, I was working on getting better and seeing the results. As a freshman in high school, I started as a junior varsity player. From there, I jumped to starting varsity as a sophomore and I started improving and made it to college,” said Sullivan. “I received a handful of offers from division-two schools and a couple of division-one’s. I decided to stay closer to home, and attended the University of Findlay for four years where I obtained my degree.”

Sullivan dedicates his academic and sports success to his mother, whose life he wants to improve. Another reason for his drive is that he wants to inspire young people.

My number one motivation has always been my mom. She’s done a great deal for myself and my brother. She’s been through a lot. I think just seeing what she had to go through in life and still keep a smile on her face. That motivates me to want to give back to her. I want to see her live a good life,” said Sullivan.

“I also want to be someone who inspires young kids. I love being an outsider, but in a good way. Seeing where I came from and where I am now, I think it’s a positive legacy to leave behind. You don’t have to be the strongest or the biggest. Even if you come from a small city, things can still work out. The other reason that motivated me is that no one in my family had been to college. So, I wanted to be the first to break that cycle.”

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Having fulfilled one part of his life’s ambition, Sullivan has now focused on his pro basketball career. Before joining Rivers Hoopers for their Basketball Africa League (BAL) competition, which is currently underway in Kigali, Rwanda, he spent two seasons in the NBA G-League, where he played for the Stockton Kings and Erie BayHawks.

There have been challenges along the way. Sullivan wanted to quit the game after an arduous spell with the BayHawks, but his passion for the game would not let him.

“It’s been amazing. I come from a small city and attended a division-two school. From that situation, the natural route players take is to go overseas,” said Sullivan.

“I was fortunate to get an opportunity to play in the G-League in my first professional year and working out with a lot of NBA teams. Taking all that in was huge in my first year. It was quite the learning experience that first year in Sacramento.

“Going into my second year, I decided to give the G-League another try. I got traded to the Erie BayHawks. That year with the BayHawks was rough. It was difficult season for me as well. I battled a lot mentally. There were times when I felt like hanging up my sneakers. But the process showed me how much I cared for the game. I can now say I have seen lots of highs and lows in two years.”

Now on the books of Nigerian club Hoopers, Sullivan explained that his move to the African continent is a broadening of his horizons.

Taren Sullivan Third Picture
Taren Sullivan playing defence on Ater Majok. Picture: FIBA

“My agent told me about this opportunity in Africa. I told him I was all in. I am a person that is open to new opportunities or new journeys. So as soon as he told me about it, I told him: ‘you get the paperwork ready. I will take advantage of the rest’,” said Sullivan.

“I was excited to be going somewhere different. It is also exciting that the tournament is connected to the NBA, which made me feel comfortable.

“I also I had never been outside the United States, so coming to Nigeria was an eye-opener for me.”

The BAL tournament is almost a week old. Sadly, the Hoopers have not had the best of debuts. The Port Harcourt-based club have already lost twice in Group A encounters against hosts Patriots Basketball Club (83-60) in the opening game last Sunday.

Their second loss came at the hands of US Monastir (99-70) on Wednesday, making the route to the quarter-finals difficult for Hoopers.

In both games, Sullivan scored 15 points (vs Patriots) and 9 points (vs Monastir).

With one game left against GNBC of Madagascar on Saturday, Sullivan and his teammates will have to win by a considerable margin to keep their quarter-final hopes alive.

“It’s a dog eat dog world out here. We have to be ready to fight from the beginning of games. If we don’t get these wins, then we go home early, and I know nobody in this team wants that,” concluded Sullivan.

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