Greg Oden - Backing Up The Hype

Quiet but loud. Humble but confident. Relaxed but aggressive. These are all things that come to mind when talking about the top recruit in the land, Lawrence North's Greg Oden. Quite possibly the most prized Ohio State basketball recruit in the school's history, Greg Oden is a player who lets his game do all of the talking for him and is quite possibly the poised 17 year old that I have ever been around in my life.

"Do you mind if I please change my shirt before we do our interview sir?" Greg 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 you've heard a bit about this kid's character, it's time we tell you a little about his game. His combination of size (legit 7'0), strength (solid 240 lbs.) and athleticism (impressive leaping ability and lateral quickness) are unmatched by any 7 footer not wearing an NBA jersey. Greg Oden 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. It's 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, Greg 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 Oden is that he actually boxes out, unlike many top big men who just use their athleticism to rebound the basketball. Because of this, it's 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 Oden 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. Greg 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 it's all said and done.

While Greg 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. I've noticed this as well, as sometimes he is just way too passive and doesn't seem to realize that he has the ability to dominate the game on both ends of the floor. When Greg Oden decides that he wants to score, he absolutely dominates. It's just a matter of forcing it into his head that he cannot be stopped. Although Greg Oden has good lateral quickness for guarding opposing centers, I often question his ability to guard a smaller, face the basket player. I'm 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 Oden is his offensive game. I'm not so sold on this necessarily being a weakness; he's just not as developed of a scorer as his game on the other end of the floor. He shows all of the moves, but doesn't seem to use them on a consistent enough basis. The one thing that I do feel is true a weakness of Greg 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 don't 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, Greg 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 Oden 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 Greg Oden played limited minutes. Combine that with the fact that Spiece boasts a starting five of all high-major recruits (Ohio State recruits Greg 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.