When the Northland boys basketball team ascended to the No. 1 ranking in the USA Today national poll on Jan. 19, it marked the first time since the ratings were developed a couple of decades ago that a Columbus team reached the top of the mythical mountaintop.

When the Northland boys basketball team ascended to the No. 1 ranking in the USA Today national poll on Jan. 19, it marked the first time since the ratings were developed a couple of decades ago that a Columbus team reached the top of the mythical mountaintop.

The Vikings, under coach Satch Sullinger, are a deserving lot. They knocked off nationally known powers Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep and Oak Hill Academy of Virginia and last Saturday, they defeated Fort Wayne (Ind.) Luers.

But there are a number of teams from the past that could have had such stature had the ratings been in place.

How about the great East Tigers, who won state titles in 1968 and 1969 and the 1979 team that toppled Clark Kellogg's Cleveland St. Joseph squad in the final?

Or how about the 1951 East team that became Columbus' first big school crown bearer? How about Jackie Moore's Walnut Ridge state champs of 1970 or Vince Chickerella's Linden McKinley team that destroyed Cleveland East Tech in the 1967 championship or the Jene Davis-led 1977 Linden McKinley team that beat Barberton in the Class AAA finals?

It's fun to talk about, but the fact is that this Northland team is very, very good and they are led by a trio of brilliant players in seniors J.D. Weatherspoon and Jared Sullinger and junior Trey Burke. The seniors are committed to go to Ohio State and Burke is committed to play at Penn State.

"Being No. 1 is great and it does mean a lot to us," Jared Sullinger said. "It obviously isn't our ultimate goal, which is to win our second straight state title, but it does motivate us to play as hard as we can to be at the top of the poll when the season ends."

Weatherspoon added, "It has taken hard work and a great commitment from all of us to get this ranking and I am proud that we can represent the City League and the fans of high school basketball in the city of Columbus."

Burke said, "When we won the state championship last year, we gained some credibility, and playing some of the best teams in the country during the summer AAU tournaments and now during the season has really raised our level of confidence. We know each other well and know what we can accomplish."

All three Vikings understand the challenges facing them the rest of the season.

"We don't want to be part of another school's Cinderella story," Burke said. "We don't want to be part of any real big upset for everyone to read about. We all know that we are supposed to win each game, so that only means we have to totally be prepared for every game."

Weatherspoon agrees with his younger teammate.

"Every team we play wants to take our season and our stature away from us and I guess that shows respect," Weatherspoon said. "But we have to realize how big a game it is for our opponents and always be ready to take the best shot they have."

According to Jared Sullinger, the closeness of this team will help through the pressures of the last half of the season.

"One of our greatest assets is that we are true friends on and off the court," Jared Sullinger said. "I've know Trey since fourth grade and J.D. since fifth grade and basketball has been the connector to our friendship and that matters in crucial situations."

Thinking about the chase for a second consecutive title, the three hope to represent their school to the best of their ability.

"We are all pretty hungry and pretty excited, but our coach won't let us change anything," Jared Sullinger said. "He will keep us grounded and humble and we all have the same goal and that is to devote ourselves to God, our families, books and basketball."

Sounds like a winning philosophy, doesn't it?

I'll see you at a game.

Larry Larson is a former athletics director at Grandview High School. He can be heard as "Mr. High School Sports" on WTVN 610 AM.