ATLANTA -- Former No. 1 pick Greg Oden said he's excited to make his debut in The Basketball Tournament on Friday night as a reserve with Scarlet and Gray, a group of Ohio State alumni hoping to advance toward the $2 million prize in the single-elimination event.
Oden said he's mostly here to have fun with former Buckeyes like David Lighty, his teammate on the 2006-07 squad, Aaron Craft, William Buford and others in a game against Primetime Players, which will air on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET.
The NBA career of Oden, who last played professional basketball three years ago in China, was famously derailed by foot and knee injuries.
This isn't a comeback, he said. But it's a chance to see one of the most intriguing talents of the past decade play in a high-stakes matchup for the first time in years.
"Most of us live in Columbus, Ohio," he told ESPN in Atlanta on Friday. "For me, I see these guys every day in the gym when they're not around the world. To get out there and play a couple of minutes with them, I just think it'll be fun."
Scoonie Penn, former Buckeyes star and head coach of the Scarlet and Gray squad, said anyone looking for a throwback performance from Oden, who led the Buckeyes to the national title game against Florida in 2007, should take a deep breath.
Penn admitted, however, he's looking forward to seeing Oden on a court.
"Yeah, [Oden] will get a few minutes," Penn said. "He's gonna play. It's not a lot of pressure on Greg. I don't want people to think he's going to score 30 points and play all game. But Greg is a big part of us, what we do. He'll have a serious role in tonight's game. And just like everyone else, I'm anxious to see Greg. It will be exciting to watch him play."
Oden last played professional basketball as a member of the Jiangsu Dragons in the Chinese Basketball Association during the 2015-16 season. He averaged 13.0 points, 12.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game.
He hasn't been in the NBA since a brief stint with the Miami Heat during the 2014-15 campaign.
On Friday, he stretched for 15 minutes before practicing with the team. He had ice bags on both knees after practice.
"It's hard to describe how I feel [physically]," said the 30-year-old Oden, who was smiling. "Just know that I'm going out there for fun. Put it like that. If I need to describe how I feel, I probably shouldn't be going out there. I'm going out there to play with these guys and hopefully get a chance to win a couple million dollars and for us to split it."