1 hand or 2, hype of freshman Oden legit

first_imgSay you broke the wrist of your writing hand and had an essay exam the next day. No worries, right? Well, at least not for Ohio State’s Greg Oden.Oden, the nation’s most hyped high school graduate since LeBron James, was supposed to be out until January with a broken right wrist, the wrist of his shooting hand. However, the diaper dandy made an early return this past weekend against Valparaiso, playing with a cast on his right hand and all.Why Ohio State head coach Thad Matta would play Oden against a school only known for Bryce Drew is beyond me, but the fact of the matter is that Oden’s back, and he’s good.Practically playing with just his off hand, Oden made a resounding statement in his first collegiate game with 14 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. He even made eight of 14 free throws shooting with his left hand.All the doubters and naysayers? Gone. Oden is as good as advertised.Prior to the season, Oden was named to the All-Big Ten team, a high honor for a player who had yet to play in a single game. While it may have been questionable to some, coaches across the conference didn’t think twice about it as they all knew just how good Oden would be.”Greg Oden’s got the whole package, that’s why he was such a coveted recruit,” then-Minnesota head coach Dan Monson said at Big Ten Media Day. “You don’t have a lot of 7-foot guys come along with the athleticism that he has, the strength, the basketball skill-package coupled with the kind of person he is.””[Oden’s] pretty good, because they kept asking me who was the best freshman you ever saw or had the most prolific impact, [and] I said Magic Johnson since I’ve been in the league as an assistant or a head coach,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. “Can you think of anybody else?”Now if Oden is being compared to the likes of Magic by coaches such as Ryan, you know he’s going to be the real deal.After all, if Oden was projected to be the NBA’s top pick last year before the league’s age restrictions, he should be pretty good. However, it’s always hard to make an impact at the next level right away, especially for a big man who is still growing. (Then again, is it just me or does Oden look like he’s 30-something and not 19? Just throwing it out there… )Just ask Wisconsin’s own Brian Butch.Butch came to Wisconsin four years ago with high expectations as a McDonald’s All-American, and while he’s found his niche as a starter, averaging 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game this year, it took a great amount of work for the forward/center to adjust to the collegiate level of play.”It’s definitely hard,” Butch said of coming in as a freshman. “You just have to know what you got to do for yourself to get better. I took the redshirt to put the extra weight on and hopefully become a better player at the end of my career.”But Oden’s something else; he’s one of those players who come around once in a lifetime, like the aforementioned Magic and Jordan. One game may be too early to judge the freshman and herald him as one of the best, but if all the hype is true — and judging by Saturday’s game — then Oden has the potential to be a very special player.And it’s scary to think Oden’s broken wrist may actually make him better in the long run, forcing him to use his off hand for the time being.”In the long run, it probably helps him,” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. “If he’s doing it right, and I’ve heard from some people he’s really working on his other hand so now you add that to the mix, it could be a benefit for him to go both ways.”Whether it’s with one hand or two, Badger fans will have the chance to see just how good Oden is when the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes visit the Kohl Center Jan. 9, 2007.Michael is a senior double majoring in communication arts and journalism. He will be returning to Madison early over winter break just to get a glimpse of Oden himself. For any questions or comments, you can reach Michael at mpoppy@badgerherald.comlast_img

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