According to Buckeyes’ coach Thad Matta, Greg Oden has been engaging in what he referred to as “high-level training” on the Ohio State campus for several months now and is once again eyeing an NBA comeback.
Speaking to reporters in Portland, Ore. on Wednesday as his team readies itself for an opening round match-up with Virginia Commonwealth University to kick off the NCAA Tournament, Matta seemed genuinely impressed with Oden’s progress, both on and off the court.
“Quite honestly, I haven’t seen Greg look this good since when he played for us back in the day at Ohio State,” Matta said. “His attitude is off the charts. He went through a lot. You look at Greg’s life, how difficult things have been. I know that he is a kid that never wanted to let people down. The injuries, you know, none of us can prevent those. I know there’s part of him that wishes that stuff couldn’t have happened. I still swear he was going to be one of the greatest to ever play in the NBA just from the year I was with him.”
During his first and only season at Ohio State in 2007, Oden and point guard Mike Conley led the Buckeyes all the way to the NCAA Championship game where they would ultimately lose to Florida.
He was taken with the first overall pick by the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA Draft the following summer, notoriously before Kevin Durant, leading many – including himself, sadly – to see him as one of the worst draft busts in NBA history.
Oden was plagued by an insurmountable succession of knee injuries during his time in Portland that limited him to a total of just 82 games during his first five seasons before the Blazers were finally forced to release him and move on from the player they’d hoped would be a franchise cornerstone for many years to come.
Oden had a brief stint in Miami during the 2013-2014 season, appearing in 23 games for the Heat. He was last seen dunking on some poor schlub at a local YMCA.
Oden has battled a legion of personal demons since his career was sent into a tailspin, including rumors of alcohol abuse and a domestic violence incident involving a former girlfriend last fall. According to SI.com, he struck a plea deal on felony battery charges that helped him avoid jail time but resulted in fines, probation, and mandatory alcohol and domestic abuse counseling.
For basketball fans, Oden’s harrowing saga has been one of the most depressing stories of the past few years, so here’s hoping he can someday get back to playing the sport he once loved.