For a long time, I was certain that Greg Oden was the real-life Benjamin Button. Oden hasn’t looked a day under 45 since he was in high school. I thought maybe, just maybe, he was aging backwards and perhaps would become a strapping young lad by the time he was in his 8th year in the NBA. A lot was wrong with that theory, but mostly the part about him having a long, or even existent NBA career. Oden was the #1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft as selected by the Portland Trailblazers. Before Oden could even play in his first NBA game, he underwent microfracture surgery of the knee and missed his entire rookie season. Since that moment, Oden has continually battled injury after injury. Oden moved into that unfortunate and select group of players who will forever be labeled as “Busts” by the teams who drafted them early and pinned the hopes of their franchise on their shoulders. The Trailblazers still haven’t completely recovered from the whiff.
Tonight, Greg Oden announced the NBA team he plans to re-join from free agency. A number of teams seemed interested in taking a big chance on the shaky health of the 7-footer. The reigning back-to-back NBA champs were the team to do it though. The Miami Heat signed Greg Oden tonight for a 2-year minimum deal with a player option for the 2nd year. The Heat are taking a gamble, but if Oden does wind up being healthy, they are getting a potentially strong big man for a discounted price. And if Oden doesn’t pan out? Well, the Heat are still the defending NBA champions and have LeBron James on the roster. Things could certainly be worse.
And now on to the news and views of the day…
—- Add another player to the list of potential targets for John Calipari and Kentucky in the class of 2014. Calipari recently began to show interest in another point guard, Tyler Ulis. Ulis is a 5’8″ point guard in the class of 2014 and is ranked as the 49th best overall player in the class. Ulis also holds offers from Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, DePaul, Iowa and USC. Ulis’ father told Adam Zagoria that Cal has not yet offered, but his son still plans to visit Kentucky in the near future. Calipari has already offered two 5-star point guards in the class of 2014 in Tyus Jones/Jahlil Okafor Tyus Jones and Emmanuel Mudiay. Kentucky has also expressed interest in another point guard, Josh Perkins. Perkins, like Ulis, does not yet hold an offer though he holds Kentucky in high regard.
Ulis would be a major break from the mold of Calipari’s point guards with length. Most of Cal’s best point guards have been big points guards, at least 6’2″ or taller.
—- Speaking of Tyus Jones, Gary Parrish caught up with Jahlil Okafor’s AAU coach who told him that Duke is probably the current leader for the Tyus Jones/Jahlil Okafor package deal. —- 5-star big man Jahlil Okafor also told said in his most recent blog for USA Today that he will not be attending Big Blue Madness.
“A lot of coaches want me to come down for Midnight Madness, which makes sense. I know I’ve spoken to Kentucky about that, but I won’t be able to make Big Blue Madness. I’ll probably go at a later date.”
Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness is the same weekend as Okafor’s father’s birthday, which is why he isn’t looking to schedule any trips for that weekend. Okafor did say that he and point guard Tyus Jones are planning on taking a few visits together.
—- Switching gears to football for a moment, Kentucky is still in hot pursuit of 4-star wide receiver Braxton “Honey Nut” Berrios. Berrios recently received an offer from Miami (Fla), a school he said he grew up dreaming about playing for. Stoops and his staff recently sent off 104 letters in the mail to Berrios, who seemed impressed by the gesture.
“#BBN I think this speaks for itself. 104 handwritten letters from the coaching staff…#UK.”
(Mark Stoops looking sharp in a Blue Blazer at the Kick-off Luncheon)
—- ESPN’s SEC Blog does an “Opening Camp” special on each of the teams in the SEC. Today, ESPN looked at Kentucky’s status heading into fall camp. Here are a few highlights:
Key Battle: First-year coach Mark Stoops enters his first fall with the Wildcats with a three-headed quarterback battle on his hands. Though Maxwell Smith is the veteran and was the starter before injuries cut his 2012 season short, sophomore Jalen Whitlow appeared to leave spring with the edge at the position. He and classmate Patrick Towles played during Smith’s absence last fall and will continue to push for the starting spot during camp.
Of Note: The Wildcats owned one of the country’s youngest and most inexperienced teams in 2012. Kentucky played 14 true freshmen, ranking sixth nationally. A total of 27 true freshmen played, including redshirt freshmen, which ranked fourth in the country.
Predicted order of finish at Media Days: Picked to finish seventh in the SEC East at SEC Media Days.
—- Mark Stoops won’t let any of Kentucky’s potential shortcoming derail him and his staff from a laser-like focus heading into camp on Monday. As Kentucky prepares for the circus of media day and the first day of camp, Stoops and his staff are relying on what they call a “diverse, single-minded coaching staff.” In a Cats Scratches special story from UKAthletics.com, they talk about the cohesiveness of the newly assembled coaching staff.
“Coach Eliot and I have been to three, four, five stops together and he knows what I want to do defensively,” Stoops said. “So that was very important to let me do all the things that I’ve been doing in the community, get out there and be in charge of the whole program.”
—- In news we would probably all rather not spend too much time talking about, Terrence Jones pled not guilty today in court to his harassment charge. His lawyer claims that Jones may have tripped over the sleeping homeless man, whose body was partially “extended onto the sidewalk,” yelled at him to “wake up,” and then nudged him with his foot. In another statement his lawyer said that Jones is a “gentleman and doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.” Jones is due back in court on September 6th. —- Around the Horn said it best in regards to Louisville receiving a commitment from former Auburn stud/troubled running back Michael Dyer: “Did Louisville just lock up the championship for… whatever conference it is that they are in now?” —- Larry Vaught caught up with Anthony Davis recently at one of John Calipari’s pro camps. Davis had nothing but good things to say about Cal and the team that he was part of during the national championship run in 2012. Davis had some telling words on what it took to be a part of a team to win a championship.
“It wasn’t a one-man show. Coach Cal did a great job and all the coaches to make sure we left our egos at the door and made us play together,” said Davis. “We had great veterans on that team in Terrence (Jones) and Doron (Lamb), Darius (Miller). We all tried to do it for Darius because he wanted to win a ring before he left. That was like one of our goals, to do it for him.
It was fun. We haven’t grasped the situation yet, as far as winning a championship. Probably a couple years from now we’ll really start feeling it. But it was great.”
And last but certainly not least… Alabama fans just give us wayyyyyy too much to work with. See anything wrong with the tattoo below? Sooooo close to getting it all right.