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Where are they now?: Greg Oden continues basketball journey

Where are they now?: Greg Oden continues basketball journey
Greg Oden has reunited with his former Ohio State coach, Thad Matta, left, at Butler as the program’s director of basketball operations. (Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS (BVM) – Greg Oden will always be remembered as a dominant force that led Ohio State to a national runner-up finish in 2007. Unfortunately, he will also be remembered as one of the biggest draft busts of all time after being selected No. 1 overall by the Portland Trail Blazers and playing in just 105 NBA games.

While his playing career may not have panned out the way he had hoped, Oden has not lost his love or passion for the sport, and has remained plenty involved with basketball to this day.

Early career

Born in Buffalo, New York, Oden grew up in Terre Haute, Indiana, eventually moving to Indianapolis to attend Lawrence North High School. He had a decorated career with the Wildcats, winning three IHSAA state championships alongside future Ohio State teammate Mike Conley. 

As a senior in 2006, Oden was named Gatorade Indiana Boys Basketball Player of the Year for the second consecutive year as well as Indiana Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American. The year prior, the No. 1 player in the 2006 recruiting class – along with high school and AAU teammate Conley – committed to Ohio State, cementing a bright future for Buckeyes basketball.

Ohio State career

The beginning of Oden’s dominant stint with the Buckeyes actually began with a wrist injury, causing him to miss the first few games of the 2006-07 season. However, once he got on the court in Columbus, Oden flashed dominance, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in his first game.

Oden put up some impressive stats throughout the season as he averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks. Highlights of the year included a 29-point outburst against Iowa in January as well as a 17-point, 19-rebound performance in the Big Ten tournament against Purdue.

Greg Oden Ohio State Buckeyes basketball
Greg Oden returned to Ohio State as a student coach and assistant, graduating with his undergrad degree in 2019. (Credit: [Eric AlbrechtDispatch] via Imagn Content Services, LLC)
Playing alongside fellow freshmen in Conley, David Lighty and former AAU teammate Daequan Cook, as well as with some talented veterans including Ron Lewis, Jamar Butler, Ivan Harris and Othello Hunter, Oden and the Buckeyes thrived, winning Big Ten regular season and conference tournament titles. 

Despite a couple of early scares to Xavier and Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament, the Buckeyes (35-4) made it all the way to the national championship game for the first time since 1962 where they would suffer their first loss since early January to a Florida Gators team led by Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah and Al Horford. Oden scored 25 while grabbing 12 rebounds in what would be his final college game, finishing his college tenure as an AP All-American.

NBA career and injuries

The future looked bright for Oden post college, and in an era where dominant post players were highly coveted, he was a lock to be a top draft pick following his draft declaration in 2007. In June, Oden was selected No. 1 overall in the 2007 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. Former teammates Conley and Cook were also first-round picks, with Conley going at No. 4 to the Grizzlies and Cook going No. 21 in a pick that was eventually traded to Miami.

Meanwhile, the Florida stars that beat Ohio State in the national championship – Brewer, Horford and Noah – were all top-10 picks, as was Kevin Durant out of Texas who went No. 2 overall.

However, as soon as Oden’s pro career started, injuries popped up again. In the fall of 2007, the former Buckeye had microfracture surgery on his right knee, missing his entire rookie season. He would return to appear in 61 games in 2008-09, averaging 8.9 points with some strong performances including a midseason game against the Bucks where he scored a career-high 24 points. Yet, Oden continued battling foot and knee injuries from the start of the season. In his first NBA game, Oden had to leave after 13 minutes with a foot injury.

Greg Oden NBA Portland Trail Blazers
Greg Oden was not able to stay healthy during his time in the NBA, missing three consecutive seasons at one point in his career. (Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports)

Oden appeared to be developing across the first part of the 2009-10 season for the Blazers, averaging 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds. But in December, Oden fractured his left patella, ending his season after just 21 games.

An additional surgery on his knee the following year would cause Oden to miss the entire 2010-11 season. Expected back for 2011-12, Oden suffered setbacks that required additional knee surgeries. In March of 2012, less than five years after being the team’s No. 1 pick, the Blazers waived Oden. It was another tough moment for a snake-bitten franchise dealing with the retirement of star guard Brandon Roy due to knee problems, and All-Star big LaMarcus Aldridge suffering from heart issues. 

Oden sat out his third consecutive season in 2012-13, hoping for a comeback the following year. 

In August of 2013, Oden signed a one-year contract with the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh-led Miami Heat. Although he played in just 23 contests, it was a nice comeback story as Oden saw his first regular season action in four years for a team that went on to the NBA Finals. However, this would be the final stop of his 105-game NBA career.

Returns to the court

For many fans who remember Oden’s lackluster NBA career, the question has become where has he played since? Training back at his alma mater in Ohio State, Oden had NBA workouts with the likes of the Grizzlies, Mavericks and Hornets in 2015, but was not offered a contract.

Later that year, he signed to play in the Chinese Basketball Association with the Jiangsu Dragons. While he put up good numbers averaging around 13 points and 12 rebounds, Oden’s stint in the league lasted just 25 games as he was cut towards the end of the season.

In 2018, Oden returned to the court once again, this time competing in The Basketball Tournament (TBT) with Scarlet & Gray, Ohio State’s alumni team, scoring 11 points in his first game back on the court.

Soon after, he found a new basketball home with the Aliens in Ice Cube’s Big3 basketball league, which he competed in through the 2021 season.

Coaching career 

While his playing career may have gone awry, Oden has been able to stay involved with basketball through coaching. In 2016, the center returned to Ohio State to become a student manager and coach with Thad Matta’s staff. He continued working under Chris Holtmann’s staff the next two years as a student manager as well.

In 2019, Oden added to his resume by becoming an athlete advisor for Edyoucore Sports & Entertainment, where he provided financial education to amateur and professional athletes. In January of 2021, the former Buckeye was also announced as a member of former Ohio State assistant Alan Major’s staff with the DC Stealth in The Professional Collegiate League.

Greg Oden Big3 basketball Aliens
While going back to school and coaching, Greg Oden maintained a playing career with the Aliens in the Big3. (Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

However, by fall of 2021, the big man returned to coaching at his alma mater as he became a grad assistant on the Buckeyes’ staff, taking on a wide range of roles from putting together film to competing in the post during practices.

Oden’s coaching career continues to progress, as he was hired as director of basketball operations for Thad Matta’s new staff at Butler this past May. Matta was hired by the Bulldogs in April following a stint at Indiana, and will resume a head-coaching role for the first time since his Ohio State days. He will do so alongside a couple of his top talents from his time with the Buckeyes in Oden and Jon Diebler.

Education

While beginning his coaching career and continuing his playing career in some capacity, Oden has also worked hard off the court to finish his schooling. In 2019, the 34-year-old earned his undergraduate degree in sports industry, 13 years after he began taking classes in Columbus.

Since, Oden has pursued his master’s degree in sports coaching, continuing to gain experience under Holtmann and Matta.

Net worth and family life

Throughout his NBA career, the 7-footer reportedly made over $24 million. According to numerous outlets, Oden now has a net worth of around $16 million as he officially transitions fully from his playing career to a coaching career.

Meanwhile, Oden has been able to find happiness off the court, marrying his wife, Sabrina, in 2017. The couple has one daughter named Londyn.

Conclusion

Greg Oden’s name will be brought up around NBA draft time every year as he is undoubtedly one of the biggest draft busts of all time. However, he had plenty of success in high school and college, and despite injury after injury, he persevered to return to an NBA court while making several basketball stops afterwards.

His drive and determination led him to going back and getting a good education at Ohio State while also entering the beginning stages of his basketball future: coaching. It’s a nice comeback story that anyone can look up to, and despite the disappointing career, Oden has still made his name known in the basketball community.

It will be interesting to see if Oden can blossom on the staff of his former college coach in Matta at Butler. If he does, Oden may soon be adding another chapter to his story as a college basketball head coach.

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