OSU could be near recruiting gold rush
Oden, teammate reportedly leaning toward commitment
Saturday, June 25, 2005
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
In 1991, Michigan landed a basketball recruiting class that became known as the Fab Five.
A similarly heralded group might land in Columbus in 2006.
It is not a done deal, but based on a coach’s hunch and published reports, Indianapolis high-school junior Greg Oden, a 7-foot center and the national player of the year, is prepared to commit to Ohio State and coach Thad Matta.
His point guard since sixth grade, Mike Conley, another player regarded near the top of the national class of 2006, is expected to join him, according to a story in yesterday’s Indianapolis Star.
"I do know that the sentiment is high, and I’m 99.9 percent (sure) they’re gonna be Buckeyes before June or July is over," said Al Powell, the players’ assistant coach for the AAU Spiece Indy Heat. "I cannot confirm it. I haven’t heard from Thad or (assistant coach John) Groce or any of the boys, so I don’t know."
Oden was unavailable for comment, and his mother, Zoe, declined to speak about the report. Conley’s mother, Regina, said her son also was unavailable and that the family is not speaking publicly about the Star’s story.
The players "have plans to have a press conference at some point within the next week or two to make a decision," she said.
So there is no decision? "No decision until the press conference," she said.
Previously, Oden was projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2006 NBA draft. But with the terms of the collective-bargaining agreement struck this week between the league and the players’ union, American players must be one year out of high school before they become draft-eligible. Oden, however, always had maintained that he planned to play in college.
"People won’t believe that now, but he was headed to college," Powell said. "If you talk to Greg, Greg always feels that he’s not ready yet, or that he needs work. What I love about him is that he’s a humble kid, and he doesn’t really realize how advanced he is."
That does not mean, however, that Oden will be a Buckeye for four years. "No way," Powell said.
In his junior season, Oden averaged 20 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.7 blocked shots for Lawrence North High School. Conley averaged 10.7 points and five assists. While Oden is ranked first in his class by national scouting organizations, Conley is ranked 20 th by recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons’ All-Star Sports Report and 26 th by Scout.com.
The high-school teammates would join their AAU shooting guard Daequan Cook (ranked sixth by Gibbons) and Cleveland guard Dave Lighty (12 th) to form a group that draws comparisons with Michigan’s Fab Five freshmen of 1991. That group featured future NBA stars Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and Jalen Rose.
"I don’t like to compare anything to a Fab Five, but these kids are gonna make a great impact," Powell said. "It’s going to be Christmas in either June or July, whenever they make this announcement."
After narrowing their options to four schools, Oden and Conley were down to two finalists, Ohio State and Wake Forest. Powell said Matta and his familiar system put Ohio State on the players’ radar.
"We’ve brought them up under a similar system in AAU — open court, pro-type style, inside-out, run the floor," Powell said. "And (Ohio State’s) style is conducive to the way they’re used to playing. They’re going into a system where the adaptation shouldn’t be too hard."
And the two always have wanted to play with each other and would like to continue playing with Cook, Powell said.
"These kids have been playing together since the sixth grade, and Daequan’s been playing with them since the seventh grade," Powell said. "I think they made their mind up a long time ago that if they had the opportunity . . . It’s a rare case to have this many good kids that like each other."