Greg Oden returning to action in reserve role at TBT

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.

Portland Trail Blazers guard Evan Turner will serve as an assistant coach.

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."