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Conley will put the heat on Oden
By: Jason Lloyd, Journal Register News Service
Freshman point guard will attempt to persuade OSU center to remain in school
ATLANTA - If there is a bright spot to Ohio State's 84-75 loss to Florida in the national championship game, it's that Monday night might have proven to be a big push to bring Greg Oden back to Columbus for another year.
Childhood friend Mike Conley Jr. said afterward that Oden really wanted a national championship before he left college. After one year, he doesn't have one.
"He wanted to put this on his résumé, and we fell short," Conley said. "This will maybe be a key factor in making him come back."
Oden has ignored the questions all season, particularly over the last two weeks, as the scrutiny around his decision intensified. Now he can't ignore it any longer. Oden must decide if he will return to Ohio State for another season or if he's headed to the NBA.
If Conley has his way, he'll make sure Oden's decision is difficult.
"I'll talk to him and do all I can to get him to come back or change his mind if he's already made it up," Conley said. "I want to play with him. I haven't played without him in a while. I don't know if he wants to lose that."
Oden wouldn't discuss his future Monday night, answering all questions about the NBA with "next question" or "please don't ask me about that." Back in Columbus on Tuesday, he didn't give much more insight.
"I'm not going to think about it just yet," he said.
Oden will have just over three weeks to decide his fate. The deadline to apply for the NBA draft is April 29.
Conley and Coach Thad Matta both insist they haven't had any discussions with Oden about his future. The goal since the team gathered in the fall was to win a national championship.
The Buckeyes obviously fell just short of that with Monday's loss to Florida. Now Matta will sit down with Oden and have that conversation he's probably been dreading.
"I think Gregory and I will sit down when we get back and kind of talk," Matta said. "Honestly, I couldn't even give you a percentage right now, because we've never discussed it."
Various former players and coaches have weighed in on the Oden situation during this NCAA tournament run. Most believe he should return for another year, which is in direct contrast to the public opinion's assumption of his ultimate fate.
If he left for the NBA, Oden likely would be the first pick in the draft and immediately receive millions with his contract and endorsements. If he returned to Ohio State, Oden would be the early favorite for player of the year. He could also improve his offensive skills, develop a consistent move on the post and have a full year of health after he battled offseason wrist surgery all season.
Should Oden return, the Buckeyes likely would be the preseason No. 1 team. Pairing the 7-foot Oden with 7-2 recruit Kostas Koufos could prove devastating to opponents. But now it becomes a waiting game.
"I'm hoping he comes back," Conley said. "That's my thing. I'm hoping it happens."