On Monday morning, it was announced that Ohio State's alumni team, Scarlet and Gray, would be getting a significant roster boost.
Former No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Greg Oden is joining Scarlet and Gray this summer in its quest to take home the $2 million prize that is given to the winning team in The Basketball Tournament. The downside to the addition of Oden? The former Buckeye big man will not be able to play in the opening weekend of the tournament, which is set to be held at Capital University in Columbus.
"The weekend here (in Columbus) I am going to miss because I am going to be out of town," Oden said Monday. "But a couple of weekends (after that), I will play."
Assuming the Buckeye alumni make it out of the first weekend, Oden could return to the playing floor for the first time in a competitive arena since playing for the Jiangsu Dragons in the 2015-16 season. Still just 30 years old, Oden has been working to play for nearly a year.
Oden was added to last year's TBT roster, but was replaced by Jared Sullinger – who was again added to the roster for a second stint on Monday – just weeks before the tournament began. Oden said he wanted to play last year, but his body wasn't ready to compete.
"I wasn't ready to play. This year, I have been running up and down with the guys, doing cardio with the team and lifting," Oden, a student assistant on Chris Holtmann's staff, said. "Just trying to get my baby weight off. My daughter is almost two now. I just wasn't ready. I tried, but I would have looked terrible. This year, hopefully I can do some things."
Oden went through a number of drills during Scarlet and Gray's practice on Monday, working on post moves and running the floor with Sullinger and his other teammates.
Sullinger and Oden running the floor. pic.twitter.com/4ml1MJzFkT— James Grega Jr. (@JGrega11) July 9, 2018
Greg Oden getting some shots up. Hoping to play in the second weekend of TBT if his team can advance. pic.twitter.com/RXFtoDGULc— James Grega Jr. (@JGrega11) July 9, 2018
Should Scarlet and Gray, which is a No. 1 seed in the upcoming tournament, advance to the second weekend, Oden could see his first playing time in a competitive environment in nearly three years. While injuries derailed his professional career, The Basketball Tournament could provide Oden with a chance to play competitive basketball again, if nothing else, to simply enjoy the experience again.
"I just want to play, run up and down a little bit. They have asked me all these years (to play) and I finally gave in. I guess I can do a little something. I know I can get at least three rebounds a game," Oden said with a smile. "I just want to get out and play. I am not going to take it too crazy because I am not trying to get hurt. I am just trying to go out, have fun and play some basketball."
Ohio State director of player development Scoonie Penn, Scarlet and Gray's head coach, hinted that should his team advance to the second weekend, he could play Oden alongside Sullinger. Scarlet and Gray also added Byron Mullens to the roster, giving the team three of the best big men to play at Ohio State in the last 20 years.
While he doesn't expect Oden to play extended minutes in the tournament, Penn said Oden will provide the team with a post presence not many teams in TBT can match.
"I know he can give us a little something," Penn said Monday. "There's not many guys his size. He can still dominate down low. I don't need Greg to play 20 minutes in a row. There are going to be situations where you need size and a rebound, so there are different ways we can utilize him."
The Scarlet and Gray squad is set to open tournament action without Oden at Capital University's Performance Arena on July 21 at 4 p.m. against either Charlotte Chess Center or the West Virginia Wildcats. Should the Buckeye alumni win, they would play again July 22 at 2 p.m. Both games are scheduled to be televised on ESPN.