By Matt McCoy
Welcome back Greg Oden!
The former Buckeye and number one overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft returned to the league for the first time in more than four years Wednesday night, and had a dunk on his very first possession, which you can check out below.
Oden ended up with six points with two rebounds in eight minutes of playing time in a 114-97 Miami Heat loss to Washington.
"Very good, very good," Oden said when asked how it felt to be back. "But I wish we could have won. That's the most important thing." (See Oden's post-game interview by clicking here)
It's hard not to feel good for Oden. In his one year at Ohio State, he led the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title and to the national championship game on the court, and was pleasant, respectful and entertaining off of it.
Injuries, however, have derailed his NBA career. Oden has had multiple surgeries on both knees and last played in a game on December 5, 2009, when he suffered another injury that many thought would be a career ender. But Oden never gave up.
During his recovery he spent time at Ohio State both taking classes and working on a comeback. He continued to train in Columbus and Indianapolis and was able to work out for NBA teams last summer.
Oden had several offers but chose to go to Miami where the Heat have gradually built up his work regime. He played briefly in one pre-season game but the plan continued to be to get Oden ready to return by mid-season, build up his minutes and hopefully have a 7-foot talent to help Miami in the playoffs. So far, so good.
"That's always been the plan," Oden said after the game. "We wanted to come up with something to keep me playing, not just get me out there and get injured. This is the plan and it's gotten me this far...it's gotten me in a game so we're just going to keep with it."
Thad Matta's Impact
In the long history of the NBA, I'm sure there have been other nights when Ohio State products have had significant performances at the same time but Wednesday was pretty special if you're a fan of the basketball Buckeyes.
Oden's return was one of the headline stories in the league but a glance at box scores illustrates how much Thad Matta has elevated the Buckeye program. In Boston, Jared Sullinger recorded the first 20-point, 20 rebound game for the Celtics in seven years. Sully had 25 points and 20 boards in Boston's 88-83 victory over Toronto.
In Philadelphia, Evan Turner had a team leading 23 points, with seven rebounds and four assists, leading the Sixers to a 95-92 win over Charlotte. Turner is having his best season for Philly, averaging 19 a game with 6.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists a night.
In Milwaukee, Mike Conley led Memphis with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists as the Grizzlies won their fourth straight, 82-77 over the Bucks. It was just another night for Conley who's become one of the NBA's elite point guards, averaging 18 points and 6.5 assists this season. His teammate, and former Buckeye Kosta Koufos contributed last night, with 10 points for the Grizzlies off the bench.
A decade ago, before Matta took over, Michael Redd was the only Ohio State product in the NBA. It's a whole new ball game now. Matta has not only won five Big Ten titles, made two Final Fours, an Elite Eight and advanced to four straight Sweet 16's, he's also made Ohio State a place where kids who dream of playing in the NBA want to go.
Football school? Thanks to Matta, not just...not anymore.