Greg Oden hasn't played in a professional basketball game in two years, and turned 30 years old on Jan. 22. His career didn't end up the way many thought it would, but Oden is still making an impact on the game of basketball, especially at Ohio State.
The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft was hired by his former college coach Thad Matta as a student assistant in 2016, and was retained in the same role by Chris Holtmann in June, as the former Buckeye big man continues to pursue his college degree.
No longer in the spotlight of NBA arenas, Oden spoke with Fox Sports about his role with the Buckeyes in a video released Sunday as Ohio State tipped off against Illinois.
Oden's impact on the Ohio State program can be felt by anyone who walks through the facilities at the Schottenstein Center. As a freshman in 2006-07, Oden led the Buckeyes to Big Ten regular season and tournament titles as Ohio State advanced all the way to the national title game, eventually falling to Florida. The Final Four banners and national runner-up banners that hang in Value City Arena are thanks in large part to his efforts on the floor.
Now, Oden is making a different kind of impact for Ohio State, as he helps the Buckeyes prepare for an upcoming contest against No. 3 Purdue, a team that features 7-foot-2, 290 pound senior center Isaac Haas.
Holtmann said Tuesday that Oden has battled with Kaleb Wesson and other Ohio State players in practice, but that Haas is even bigger in stature than the former No. 1 pick.
"(Kaleb) has never defended a guy quite this big," Holtmann said Tuesday when discussing Haas. "We were joking yesterday about Oden, but Haas is a little bit bigger in both size and strength.
"It's amazing when you watch them on tape. You'll see a guy guarding Haas, and you can't see him on film, for one. You can't see the guy," Holtmann continued. "Then when you do see him, you think, 'Oh, that's the power forward.' Well no, that's their 'five' man. He just looks like a power forward next to Haas."
Ohio State senior forward Jae'Sean Tate said playing against Oden in practice is no easy task, but added that Wesson has done a solid job against the former Buckeye.
"I think Kaleb has done a good job of just doing the best he can on him," Tate said. "It is going to prepare him the most. Yesterday was more of a scout and prep day, so we will see what happens in practice today. I know Coach Holt has some tricks up his sleeve."
Tate added that Oden is near impossible to stop inside, despite not playing major basketball in two years. Even though the big man still dominates the Buckeyes, Tate said Oden isn't much for smack talk.
"He is actually pretty nice," Tate said, drawing a laugh from the media contingent in attendance. "We honestly haven't made him mad. We have only played against him when he is nice. I don't want to see him mad, because he is just crazy. He is nuts."
Only time will tell if practicing against Oden will pay off for the Buckeyes against the Boilermakers, as Ohio State and Purdue square off Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. with first place in the Big Ten on the line.