July 7, 2005
There has been some great offseason news in Buckeye Land, and it doesn't involve Jim Tressel's football team.
I was recently on Ohio State alum Kirk Herbstreit's radio show, and we talked about the impact basketball coach Thad Matta has made at Herbstreit's alma mater. Matta has put together an incredible 2006 recruiting class, led by what most feel is the top prospect in America, 7-footer Greg Oden.
Oden and point guard Mike Conley Jr., his teammate from Lawrence North (Ind.) High School, have given verbal commitments to Ohio State. Conley's dad was an Olympian and a great track-and-field athlete at Arkansas.
Matta also has added shooting guard Daequan Cook of Dayton and David Lighty of Cleveland as part of an amazing class for the 2006-07 season. Buckeyes fans must be on cloud nine.
|NBA scouts may not be able to watch top high school players like Greg Oden in the future.|
Oden will be a dominator. The fans in Columbus will benefit from the new 19-year age minimum in place. Maybe he'll enjoy his college experience and stay for four years, a la three-time NBA champion Tim Duncan.
While the fans at Ohio State were happy with Oden's verbal commitment, there was no joy in Hoosier Country.
It's understandable when Indiana loses a quality player from within the state to Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisville or Duke. But it's tough to accept when the Hoosiers lose a player of Oden's stature to a Big Ten opponent such as Ohio State. That isn't a knock on the Buckeyes, but Ohio State isn't a household name in the world of college hoops.
Indiana coach Mike Davis and his staff must be getting pressure from fans after they came up short in their pursuit of Oden and Conley. Indiana didn't lose those recruits in football, baby! It would be more understandable if Ohio State won a recruiting battle in that arena.
When you think of the Hoosiers, you think of the magic the basketball program has enjoyed over the years. For now, the fans in Columbus are happy that Matta has pulled off some magic of his own with an incredible recruiting class.
By the way, who said it's tough for a basketball coach to make it at a football school? I've never bought that argument. If a school has a combination of coaches who sell their programs well, they can coexist easily.
Think about what Rick Barnes has done at Texas. The Longhorns have a great football program, but the basketball team is also on the map and will be in the top 10 this season. Look at Oklahoma, with Kelvin Sampson doing a great job along with Bob Stoops.
At Florida, Billy Donovan has done a super job while the Gators' football program has enjoyed tremendous success. Notre Dame's basketball program has been in unison with the Golden Dome football team. Michigan has had great basketball teams to go with its outstanding football program.
It can happen. Coaches have to buy into the fact that football is the big revenue producer, filling large stadiums on Saturdays in the fall. Then the basketball coaches have to sell recruits on attending a school that presents a great experience with a majestic setting and a top football program. The success of one program can help the other.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.