Greg Oden and Four Others Officially Sign On Dotted Line for Buckeyes

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State coach Thad Matta expressed relief on Wednesday that he had gotten letters of intent from 7-footer Greg Oden and one of the best recruiting classes in school history.

"Any time you have national letters of intent come in, you're always nervous that the fax machine may be broken or anything along those lines," Matta said Wednesday, the first day high school seniors were allowed to sign with colleges. "This signing today is unique because I think we've got every position filled. There aren't many times in college basketball you have that opportunity."

The centerpiece of the five-man 2006-07 recruiting class is Greg Oden, who averaged 20 points and 9.6 rebounds a game last season as a junior at Indianapolis Lawrence North High School. Greg Oden was considered a shoo-in to jump to the NBA directly out of high school before the league changed its minimum age rule last summer. Players now must be at least 19 or out of high school for one year before they can play in the NBA.

"I think the thing that Greg Oden is going to bring is a defensive presence. He's one of the best shot-blockers I've ever seen," Matta said. "His ability to finish around the basket is very good as well. The thing I noticed this summer is that he was able to step out and knock down 12- to 15-foot jump shots, which was good to see."

Greg Oden, who led Indianapolis Lawrence North to the last two Class 4A state championships, was selected as the national player of the year by several publications.

"He has a chance to be special," Matta said. "But it all starts with the humility he carries for 17 years old."

Joining Greg Oden is Indianapolis Lawrence North teammate Mike Conley, a 6-1 guard who averaged 10.7 points and 5.0 assists last season. He is the son of former Olympic triple-jump champion Mike Conley, who was a track star at Arkansas before winning a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics and a gold in 1992.

"The first time I called their house, I didn't know whether to talk to him about his son or ask for an autograph," Matta said.

Rounding out the recruiting class are 6-4 Daequan Cook and 6-6 David Lighty, both from Ohio , along with 6-9 Othello Hunter, who played last year at Hillsborough Community College .

"They all fit in," Matta said. "They're all great kids and they all have great character."

Other prominent signings:

- Michigan signed 6-8 DeShawn Sims and 6-4 K'len Morris, Class A All-State players in Michigan last season.

- Texas signed five players, including swingman Kevin Durant, who averaged 19.6 points and 8.8 rebounds as a junior last season at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia .

- Michigan State signed 7-foot Tom Herzog and 6-6 Isaiah Dahlman, who led his team to back-to-back Class 2A Minnesota state championships, averaging 28.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists as a junior.

- Notre Dame signed 5-10 Tory Jackson, who averaged 30.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 3.0 steals for Buena Vista High School in Michigan .

- Nevada signed 6-11 JaVale McGee, the son of former WNBA star Pam McGee.

- Kentucky signed four players, including 6-2 Michael Porter, who attends Modesto Christian High School where former Wildcats standout Chuck Hayes played.

- Arizona signed three players, including 5-10 Nic Wise, who led Kingwood to the Texas Class 5A state championship last season as junior. He verbally committed to the Wildcats as a high school freshman.

- UCLA signed 6-8 James Keefe, who averaging 17.0 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks as a junior in leading Santa Margarita Catholic to a second straight CIF Southern Section Division III-AA Championship.

- Georgia Tech signed four players, including 6-4 Javaris Crittenton, who is considered a point guard good enough to continue the Yellow Jackets' tradition of Mark Price, Kenny Anderson, Stephon Marbury and Jarrett Jack.


The Associated Press News Service