Will Oden stay or go? A grand opener and much more
Posted: Wednesday January 24, 2007 3:21PM; Updated: Wednesday January 24, 2007 5:01PM
Greg Oden is wearing an Ohio State uniform this season, but will the freshman phenom head to the NBA or remain in college next season?
David E. Klutho/SI
Grant Wahl will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
The 'Bag has never been much of a news-breaker in this space, but we actually picked up a couple of juicy nuggets in recent days:
We perked up when we learned that Mike Conley Sr., the father of Ohio State's Mike Conley Jr. and Greg Oden's adviser, former summer coach and, many believe, his future agent, met last week with officials from the Wasserman Media Group -- one of the new movers and shakers in the agent biz. (WMG purchased superagent Arn Tellem's company last year.)
When I spoke with Conley Sr. on Wednesday morning, he said "basketball came up" in the meeting, but added that the main focus was on future events connected to track and field. (Conley Sr., an Olympic gold medallist in the triple jump, is a director with USA Track & Field and World Sport Chicago, which is seeking to put together a Chicago bid for the 2016 Olympics.)
Conley said he hasn't signed on to work for, or with, WMG yet ("I'm going to wait to decide what to do.") and cautioned his meeting with WMG shouldn't be taken as a sign Oden will be turning pro sooner rather than later. "I haven't had any conversations about that with Greg at all, and I know that he and [Buckeyes coach Thad Matta] haven't either," Conley said. "Greg's going to decide what's best for him after the season. To this point he hasn't given me any indication the he's leaning in a certain direction."
Keep an eye on this story: While just about everyone I've spoken to in the NBA and agent ranks thinks superfrosh Kevin Durant of Texas is turning pro after the season, there's less certainty about Oden, who likes college and hasn't played at 100 percent yet due to his still-healing right wrist.
We've long lamented college hoops has the lamest opening day in sports, but a solution may be brewing. An idea is being kicked around for "The First Four," a season-opening tournament that would be held at that season's Final Four site as a sort of dry run for the main event. The idea would be to convene four big-time programs (say, Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and UCLA) and draw big crowds and TV ratings. We certainly give the idea a thumbs-up, even though we're not sure if "First Four" or "Opening Four" sounds better.
After Alabama's third blowout SEC road loss on Tuesday (81-57 at Auburn), we're starting to think the Crimson Tide looks a lot like Virginia Tech's talented but serially snake-bit team from last season. Forward Jermareo Davidson has showed tremendous courage to keep playing after the tragic deaths of his girlfriend, Nikki Murphy, and brother, Dewayne Watkins. (For more on that story, look for my article in this week's Sports Illustrated.)
Moreover, from a purely athletic standpoint, guard Ronald Steele has been fighting injuries all season that have hampered his play. "I'm in a lot of pain," Steele told me when I was in Tuscaloosa recently. "I have tendonitis in my [right] knee that won't go away. It's pretty bad. And I sprained an ankle on the other leg, so it's kind of a dual-threat thing. It's frustrating not to be 100 percent, especially after putting so much work into the off-season to be healthy. But it's one of those things you can't control."
Does Steele, a first-team preseason All-America, expect to get back to 100 percent? "That's the goal," he says, "but it's kind of hard to rest the injury during the season while you're playing. I just have to learn to play through it and be smart."