Do you mind if I please change my shirt before we do our interview sir? Oden asks when I, like countless other reporters, put in my interview request with him at The Spiece Pump N Run in early May. Since that time, the future Buckeye has won virtually every AAU tournament his team entered, dominated the Youth Development Festival in San Diego, and had a very impressive performance at the ABCD camp in Teaneck, New Jersey.
Now that youve heard a bit about this kids character, its time we tell you a little about his game. His combination of size (legit 70), strength (solid 240 lbs.) and athleticism (impressive leaping ability and lateral quickness) are unmatched by any 7 footer not wearing an NBA jersey. Greg exhibits excellent quickness and timing in his attempts to block shots, combined with long arms which allow him to alter shot of virtually every opposing player that comes into the paint. His strength enables him to get low post position almost every time on the blocks at the high school level, often resulting in a slam dunk, lay-up, or free throw attempt. The Indianapolis native has a frame which could easily add another 30 or so pounds, boasting a well proportioned body and broad shoulders. Its safe to say that the Ohio State strength and conditioning coaches will have fun with their star recruit.
As soon as he puts on an Ohio State jersey, Oden will become an immediate defensive force. His aforementioned long arms, athleticism, and great timing have allowed him to become arguably the top shot blocker on the prep level. Another impressive feat about Greg is that he actually boxes out, unlike many top big men who just use their athleticism to rebound the basketball. Because of this, its not hard to imagine pulling down a consistent 8-10 rebounds or so per game as a freshman. He uses his strength very well, forcing opposing players to get post position well outside of the paint. All said, there is not a whole lot more you can ask for of a player on the defensive end going into his senior year of high school.
While his offensive game is nowhere near as advanced as his defensive game, Greg has really shown some flashes of being a dominant offensive force. He has a consistent jump hook with his right hand, and even shows off a hook with his left from time to time. Oden uses the strength and athleticism that we keep mentioning to overpower opponents. If he gets the ball within the key, you can count on a power dribble and a dunk attempt, which usually results in an earth rattling slam or two free throw attempts. His most impressive move, which he normally uses only once or so each game is a ridiculously quick baseline spin move which he converts into an emphatic dunk each and every time. He displays breath taking quickness and athleticism on this move, and always draws plenty of oohs and ahhs every time he brings it out. I remain confident that with the excellent coaching he will receive at Ohio State, he will develop into a force to be reckoned with the on the offensive end by the time its all said and done.
While Oden may have countless strengths, he does have a few weaknesses. First of all, many ask How can this guy be the best player in the country and only score 15 or so points per game? Well, the answer to that is very simple: He is too unselfish. I once remember reading an article where his high school coach threatened to bench him this past season unless he took at least 15 shots per game. Ive noticed this as well, as sometimes he is just way too passive and doesnt seem to realize that he has the ability to dominate the game on both ends of the floor. When Oden decides that he wants to score, he absolutely dominates. Its just a matter of forcing it into his head that he cannot be stopped. Although Greg has good lateral quickness for guarding opposing centers, I often question his ability to guard a smaller, face the basket player. Im not sure if that problem will ever arise, but it is just something that I have often wondered while watching him play.
The main weakness that everyone loves to talk about with Greg is his offensive game. Im not so sold on this necessarily being a weakness; hes just not as developed of a scorer as his game on the other end of the floor. He shows all of the moves, but doesnt seem to use them on a consistent enough basis. The one thing that I do feel is true a weakness of Oden is his shooting. His form on his free throws really needs some work and in the 15 or so games that I have seen him play, he has probably taken just 5 or so face-up jumpers. Personally, I dont feel that you really need your center to shoot face-up jumpers from 16 feet away, but it would definitely take his game to another level if he was able to develop his shooting skills.
In Las Vegas, Oden was an absolute force to be dealt with. He seemed to have a fire in him that I had never seen before. The top player in the land was leaving it all on the floor in what would be the last out of state AAU tournament of his high school career. Greg led his Spiece Indy Heat team to a 10-0 record and the Reebok Big Time championship. His statistics might be a bit deceiving, but you must keep in mind that Spiece blew out the majority of their opponents by at least 20 points and Oden played limited minutes. Combine that with the fact that Spiece boasts a starting five of all high-major recruits (Ohio State recruits Oden, Mike Conley Jr., and Daequan Cook along with class of 2007 studs Eric Gordon and Aaron Pogue), and one can understand that there are limited shots to go around.
Here is a game by game statistical breakdown of Odens performance in Vegas:
Spiece Indy Heat 69, D-1 Greyhounds 67
Oden- 10 points, 4/7 FG, 2/4 FT, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 2 blocks in 24 minutes
In a matchup vs O.J. Mayo, Bill Walker, and co., Greg showed why he can be referred to as the top player in the country while only scoring 10 points in a game. He skied for rebounds, was unstoppable when he had the ball in his hands, and most importantly, was an amazing presence on the defensive end. Oden blocked a few shots, and altered countless attempts by Mayo and Walker. He let his physical presence be known on a hard, but not dirty foul on a Bill Walker dunk attempt that sent Walker crashing to the floor and resulted in Oden picking up an intentional foul. Mayo then got in Odens face, with Oden keeping his cool and just backing away. Overall, a very solid performance, especially on the defensive end.
Spiece Indy Heat 77, New York Panthers 63
Oden- 8 points, 3/5 FG, 2/4 FT, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocked shots, 1 steal, in 18 minutes
In a matchup with fellow top big man Derrick Caracter, Oden struggled a bit and Spiece didnt really seem to look for him too much in the post. Spiece had a considerable lead for a large part of the game and didnt involve their gentle giant in their offensive game plan too much. Defensively, he did an average job on Caracter and Lance Thomas, but didnt really stand out in any facet of the game on this morning.
Spiece Indy Heat 81, Southern California All-Stars 57
Oden- 12 points, 6/10 FG, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal in 21 minutes
In yet another big time matchup, Oden went up against consensus top 5 class of 2007 member Kevin Love. Fellow Ohio State recruits Mike Conley and Daequan Cook looked to get Oden the ball a bit more, and he did a great job of forcing the So-Cal defense to collapse on him once he received it. Statistically, his numbers may not stand out to you but he did absolutely all you can ask for the number of touches he was given.
Spiece Indy Heat 87, Eastern Washington Elite Red 59
Oden- 8 points, 4/6 FG, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal in 11 minutes
Spiece Indy Heat 69, Philadelphia Crusaders 56
Oden- 19 points, 7/10 FG, 5/6 FT, 9 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, 1 steal in 20 minutes
While playing limited minutes in yet another game, Oden was absolutely dominant for the time he was out there. Not only was his force felt on the defensive end, but he showed off a really nice jump hook with both left and right hands and displayed his usual explosiveness under the basket with thunderous rim rattling dunks that sent the crowd into hysterics. The team from Philly kept the game relatively close, led by Washington State recruit Chris Matthews 9 three pointers, but Oden and Eric Gordon proved to be too much for the prep team to handle.
Spiece Indy Heat 63, Spiece Gym Rats Central 53
Oden- 9 points, 2/7 FG, 5/6 FT, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 TO, 2 blocks, 1 steal in 14 minutes
Spiece Indy Heat 71, Texas Bluechips 41
Oden- 14 points, 6/6 FG, 2/3 FT, 3 rebounds, 1 TO, 2 blocked shots, in 15 minutes
Spiece Indy Heat 85, Michigan Hurricanes 46
Oden- 19 points, 8/9 FG, 3/4 FT, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover, 2 blocks in 20 minutes
Matched up against 70 Tom Herzog (offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois, and Notre Dame), Oden responded to the challenge by taking control of the game on both ends of the floor yet again. He out muscled the frail Herzog to the tune of 4 power dunks by my count, and showed off the quick spin move that I mentioned earlier in this piece. Even though he played limited minutes, he enabled his team to go on a gigantic run through collapsing the defense and moving the ball very well. Although Herzog did make a couple of nice hooks on Greg, the Indiana native was still able to change the game defensively through his altering of shots and great rebounding against the athletic Hurricane team.
Averages through Final Four
Oden- 12.4 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, 2 assists per game, 2.3 blocks per game, in 18.1 minutes per game, while attempting 7.4 shots per game, shooting 67.8% FG, and 70.4 % FT.
Fans must keep in mind that Oden produces this much while playing less then half of every game because of his teams blowouts. While his scoring average is low, one must realize that he is only taking 7 shots a game. It will be scary when Mr. Oden decides he wants to take over.
Semi-final game- Spiece Indy Heat 71, Southern California All-Stars 47
Oden- 18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks in 18 minutes
With star post Kevin Love on the sidelines with a knee injury, Oden was able to take control of this game from the get go. He really showed a lot on the offensive end, including a left handed jump hook, the quick spin move yet again, and 5 explosive dunks. It was the same effort as always from Greg on the defensive end, as his presence totally changed the game. He has improved more and more each game as the tournament went on and did not stop in the finals.
Finals- Spiece Indy Heat 73, D-1 Greyhounds 67
Oden- 18 points, 13 rebounds, 8 blocks in 24 minutes
In yet his most impressive performance of the tournament, Oden completely dominated the final game. He played the game with a fire that I had never seen in him before, emphatically yelling after monster dunks and using his strength to outmuscle every single player on the floor. Looking back at my notes, I have too big and strong written down about five times, which should really tell you how much he controlled the game. Greg got into it yet again with Bill Walker, resulting in a technical foul for both players. He showed off the great spin move, as well as the left hook today. On the other end, he blocked just about every shot that came through there and made the D-1 players think twice about coming into the lane when he was in the game. Needless to say, I walked away from Las Vegas a believer in why many said that Greg Oden would have definitely been the top pick in the 2006 NBA draft had the age minimum not been put in.
Interview from Las Vegas
On the final game vs D-1 Greyhounds
Its crazy. You see how these people came just to see us out there on the floor. You just go out there and play your hardest. Thats the best thing you can do. The crowd is going to get excited and excitement is going to happen just with these guys playing.
DraftExpress: How does it feel to go undefeated over the summer against O.J., Bill, and the rest of the D-1 Greyhounds?
Oden: I mean, its just a game. You take it game by game and you dont worry about what happened last game. You just worry about what happens this game.
DraftExpress: Now I have seen you play at least 10 times and I have NEVER seen you play with the fire and intensity that you did this tournament. Did the Big Time carry a bit more importance then other AAU tournaments?
Oden: Its our last out of state tournament. You want to win it and you just want to come out here and you just want to play good for your team.
DraftExpress: So you guys have the Fab Four already at Ohio State (Oden, Mike Conley, David Lighty, Daequan Cook), who would you like to see get that fifth scholarship? Thaddeus Young? Vernon Macklin?
Oden: Umm you cant ask me that. They have to do their recruiting and they have to do whats best for them. Its not up to me.
DraftExpress: How is your high school team (Lawrence North) going to be this year?
Oden: Umm well we dont have any new people coming in, but we have people coming up who didnt play a lot who just improved a heck of a lot. Weve got my brother, Brandon McDonald whos just great at our school. Then youve got Damian Wendall whos just really great now.
DraftExpress: Ive heard your brother (Anthony) has gotten a lot bigger. How big is he now?
Oden: Hes 69, 263 lbs. He weighs more then me.
DraftExpress: What type of training regimen does Ohio State have you on to prepare you for your freshman season?
Oden: I dont know yet. I still have a year of high school left.
DraftExpress: They didnt tell you anything that theyd like for you to improve upon or give you any drills to do?
Oden: My high school coaches talk to theirs and got some drills, but thats really it. Nothing yet. After the high school season well do that stuff.
DraftExpress: For the record, whyd you pick Ohio State?
Oden: Its where I feel most comfortable at. Its a great school and its only three hours away. I have Mike and Daequan with me. Its just a great situation for me.