Greg Oden's the BMOC, Big Man of Classic

First we had the LeBron game. Now we have the Greg Oden game.

I was lucky enough to see the Greg Oden-Mike Conley show Saturday night that packed a record crowd of close to 9,000 into Welsh-Ryan Arena.

They're coming back.

Greg Oden and Conley are among the headliners for the 42nd Roundball Classic that will be played April 9 at the United Center .

"Greg is easily the most dominant big man since Shaquille O'Neal,'' Roundball founder and game director Sonny Vaccaro said. "And I go all the way back to Moses Malone.''

There will be some Chicago flavor with Proviso East's 6-11 Illinois recruit Brian Carlwell, Bolingbrook's DePaul-bound guard Will Walker and Marshall 's Patrick Beverley, who has emerged as one of the hottest recruits in the nation.

"Beverley was not even on the top 100 list for McDonald's,'' Vaccaro said. "He was one of those non-entity guys who didn't get a big-time name in the summer. He was good last year, and his high school was good. But the kid was still a mystery. This is a kid from Chicago , not from rural Tennessee or Mississippi . The only one I can think of to compare him to is Dwyane Wade.

"Beverley is the best-kept secret in the country. All over America , he is the singular guy who has put himself in an all-star game. All these guys that people recruit and he was going to [Toledo], and now he has a list of major schools that are after him.''

Glenbrook North's Jon Scheyer and Crane's Sherron Collins were invited, but both elected to play in the Jordan game in New York .

"I have no problem with that,'' Vaccaro said. "We have very good players, and they have very good players. The difference is Greg Oden. Greg has been the most unassuming superstar athlete I've been around. At camps, in summer tournaments and in high school, Greg has deferred to teammates and always takes away from himself.

World's Top Amateur

"When he's on the court, he doesn't back down. He's crazed and plays with intensity like Alonzo Mourning.

"I have no doubt he's the best amateur player in the world, including all the Euros and Asians.''

Carlwell got an up-close look at Greg Oden when Proviso East played Lawrence North on Dec. 17 at the Circle City Classic in Indianapolis .

Lawrence North of Indianapolis, ranked No. 1 in the country, won 72-59 as Greg Oden finished with 31 points, including nine dunks, and 16 rebounds. Carlwell had nine points and eight rebounds.

Asked whether he thought he could help Glenbrook North before the Spartans' game Saturday against the Wildcats, Carlwell kidded, "I don't think I'd help. I'm not sure anything could help. It's just one of those things you have to experience.''

Vaccaro started the event as the Dapper Dan in 1965 in Pittsburgh . Later, Magic Johnson was involved before it was moved to Chicago .

"This city is one of the hotbeds for high school talent in the country,'' Vaccaro said. "It looks like we've found a permanent home.''

For an All-American game that brought LeBron James to town in 2003, Greg Oden creates a similar buzz. And the 7-footer is just one of those players you want to see.

Quiet Winner

"He's somebody you want to say you saw play at all levels,'' Vaccaro said. "LeBron was electric. Greg is dominating. They're different people. Greg has the demeanor of a Bill Russell. The man never talked -- he just won. Greg just wins. too. He is a quiet, beautiful child.''

A player that most of the people I know haven't heard much about is Damion James, a 6-8 forward from Nacogdoches , Texas . Vaccaro called the Oklahoma recruit, who averages 25.2 points and 15.1 rebounds, "the most electrifying player in the Class of 2006.'' James was an MVP at Vaccaro's ABCD Camp in Teaneck , N.J.

"He's Josh Smith with more personality,'' Vaccaro said.

Another player to watch is 6-5 David Lighty of Villa Angela- St. Joseph in Cleveland . He was hurt and didn't play last summer but will be joining Greg Oden, Conley and Daequan Cook of Dunbar in Dayton, Ohio, to give Ohio State a class that many believe rivals Michigan's "Fab Five'' in 1991.

"I love this game and having it at the United Center ,'' Vaccaro said. "Jerry Reinsdorf treats us better than anyone, and it is one of the best arenas in the world.''