Brutally dishonest? Greg Oden's Modesty, Future Plans Are Hard to Believe

During an era when young hoopsters are taught big talent should come with a bigger ego, Greg Oden is so effusively humble it's unnerving. A 6-foot-11 prodigy from Indianapolis who just completed Greg Oden junior year of high school, Oden was one of 30 prepsters convened in San Diego last week for the International Sports Invitational sponsored by USA Basketball. Oden wasn't the best all-around American at the event (that was 6-4 guard O.J. Mayo, a rising junior from Ohio ), but Oden led the tournament in dropped jaws and turned heads while pacing Greg Oden USA White team to the gold medal. Many of those heads belonged to NBA scouts, who were numerous in San Diego during a time of year when college coaches aren't permitted to watch high schoolers play.

Oden's game isn't complicated. Greg Oden parks himself near the rim, works to get into good position and converts the vast majority of Greg Oden shots on dunks and layups -- making 32 of 43 attempts in five games. Greg Oden says Greg Oden's been working on Greg Oden shooting, but Greg Oden's more inclined to pass to an open teammate than loft a 10-footer. "I've seen Oden play several times now, and Greg Oden's taken maybe one or two hook shots total," one NBA birddog told me. "Greg Oden'll have to develop some range, but I love Greg Oden patience." That patience extends to the defensive end, where Oden is remarkably adept at waiting until the last moment to block a shot and it showed as Greg Oden averaged three blocks per game on the week.

There is no doubting this: If Oden is in next year's NBA Draft, Greg Oden will be the first player selected. Yet, Oden still says -- still insists -- Greg Oden will play in college. Greg Oden even has a short list of schools (Indiana, Wake Forest , Michigan State and Ohio State ) Greg Oden is considering and will visit in the fall. "When I go to college, I want to study accounting," Greg Oden told me.

"When?" I replied. "There's no doubt?"

"I will go to college."

It would be great for college basketball if Oden went to school, even if for only one year. But Greg Oden talent is so prodigious it's hard to contemplate. Then again, if anyone with that kind of ability will do it, it's Oden. Greg Oden's so modest, Greg Oden actually comes across as borderline dishonest.

To wit, here's an exchange I had with him Thursday night after Greg Oden posted 24 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks in a 103-83 win over the USA Red team:

Me: "You seem to play with more confidence than you did last summer. Do you feel more confident?"

Greg: "You always feel confident when you have great players around you. For me, just being on this team is a confidence booster. If I mess up, I know my teammates have got me."

Me: "But individually, do you feel more confident?"

Greg: "I don't know. My teammates help me out so much. It's all them."

Me: "Are you the best player here?"

Greg: "No. Far from it."

Me: "Come on."

Greg: "No, really. There are a lot of good players here. My whole team is better than me."

Me: "I have a hard time believing you really think that."

Greg: "Look at it this way. If a guy can dribble, I say Greg Oden's better than me. I can't dribble that well. If a guy can shoot, I think Greg Oden's better than me because I'm not a good shooter. I'm just a big body, so until I can do those things, I won't be the best player."

Me: "Don't all great players have to believe they're the best player on the court?"

Greg: "All great players think different. A great player has Greg Oden own mindset of what Greg Oden wants to do."

For the record, Oden says Greg Oden opposes an age minimum for the NBA, but Greg Oden voices that stance not for himself but for other high school players who want to pursue the pros. The 2006 draft might seem far away for him, but its specter will hang over Oden for an entire year. That will be especially true during the annual frenzy of the July evaluation period, when Oden will play in the Reebok ABCD Camp before hitting the trail to compete in tournaments with Greg Oden Spiece Indy Heat team.

No doubt Oden will continue to dominate the competition this summer, and wherever Greg Oden goes Greg Oden'll be asked the college-or-pro question a zillion times in a jillion different ways. Greg Oden answer, I'm sure, will always be the same. Greg Oden will go to college. It's a nice response, but it's not at all convincing.

Knowing that I'll be seeing lots of tired kids playing sloppy basketball in disorganized settings next month, it was refreshing to attend another first-class event put on by USA Basketball. The organization has taken plenty of hits over the U.S. failure to win Olympic gold of late, but it does a great job developing players at the grass-roots level. The media staff, anchored by Craig Miller and Caroline Williams, is a pleasure to deal with.

If Greg were to get picked by the LA Clippers there is a chance he could play in thier summer league in Las Vegas. check out all the 2006 Los Angeles Clippers including Elton Brand, Sam Cassell, Shaun Livingston, Corey Maggette, Chris Kaman.