TERRE HAUTE —
At 7 feet tall, former Terre Haute resident Greg Oden stands out in almost any crowd.
So to persuade the increasingly healthy Oden to play during the 2013-14 NBA season — for the first time since Dec. 5, 2009 — a team needed to offer something unique to stand out.
Like, say, a chance at a ring.
Enter the Miami Heat, who have won the last two NBA championships behind the “Big Three” of four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Is that persuasive enough?
For Oden, it was.
On Wednesday morning, he made it official by signing a two-year contract, reported by national media outlets to be worth about $1 million for the first year with a player option on the second year. Then he showed up in Terre Haute on Thursday to promote the seventh annual “Travis Smith Memorial Golf Classic Hosted By Greg Oden,” a private fundraiser which will take place today at the Country Club of Terre Haute.
“I’m ready to get [to Miami] and play,” Oden told me during Thursday’s annual pre-tournament cookout at a southern Vigo County residence. “I think that’s the best place for me to get me back on the court. So I’m excited to be there.”
Miami was not the only team seeking the services of Oden, who has undergone three microfracture surgeries on his knee, the latest occurring in 2012. A veteran of only 82 regular-season games (the exact length of one NBA season) since 2007, the former Lawrence North High School and Ohio State University standout named the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Pelicans as others who expressed interest.
“I just feel [Miami] is the best place for me to get back on the court,” Oden explained. “Those guys are really good. They’re a family and I love the organization.”
Physically, Oden mentioned that he feels “real good” about being ready for the upcoming season, which opens Oct. 29 at home against the Chicago Bulls.
“It’s still a work in progress,” he continued. “This is going to take some time, but I feel good. I’m excited. Finally, it’s going to happen. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will soon.”
Oden said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and team president Pat Riley have indicated they want him for “defense and rebounding.”
Sooooo, I guess that means Oden won’t be switching to point guard.
On a more serious note, Oden admitted he doesn’t know James, Wade or Bosh well— only in passing from playing against them with the Portland Trail Blazers — but he did receive welcome-to-the-team texts from James this week.
“They’re the champs,” Oden reminded us. “They won. They really don’t need me. I’m just happy to be there and hope that I can bring something to the team.
“I feel like they’ll bring me back slowly. I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of pressure on me at all. And I don’t think they’re going to put pressure on me. That was kind of another reason I made the decision to go there.”
With all that’s going on in Oden’s life — he’ll be returning to Miami on Monday — Thursday might not have been the most convenient day to travel to Terre Haute. But Travis Smith, a Terre Haute South High School graduate and Ball State golfer who died from injuries suffered in an auto accident in January 2007, was a childhood friend of Oden.
So missing these functions — organized by Terre Haute Boys & Girls Club executive director Jimmy Smith, father of Travis and a longtime friend of Oden — was not an option.
“You know, I’ll always make time to come here,” Oden emphasized. “The Smiths are my family too. I just want to be here to support the cause and do what I can.”
Smith said Oden’s efforts to get here were greatly appreciated, adding that proceeds from the golf outing will go to the Boys & Girls Club.
“What’s exciting for me is the fact that I’ve seen Greg go through the last three years of putting himself through rehab and doing the things he’s had to do to get back to where he can play,” Jimmy Smith said.
“He’s not needing for money because of the contract he got as a rookie [almost $23.3 million in salary after signing with the Trail Blazers as the NBA’s top overall draft pick in 2007]. And when you see someone put forth the kind of effort he’s put forth to get back to playing, it’s amazing. Like I said, he could have given up a long time ago, but he didn’t.”
So does this mean Smith will start rooting for the Heat?
For now, yes.
TERRE HAUTE —
At 7 feet tall, former Terre Haute resident Greg Oden stands out in almost any crowd.
- Sports Columns
College Report: Haley Chambers making noise in OVC softball circles
Two Wabash Valley natives are again making big news for the Southern Illlinois-Edwardsville softball team.
Former Riverton Parke and Cascade standout pitcher Haley Chambers was recognized for a string of dominant performances in the circle by being named Ohio Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week on Monday.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Loss of Coach Bennett leaves hole in Marshall
My email box is a little less busy now, and there’ll be a familiar face missing on basketball trips to Marshall in the future.
Ramblin’ Reck: We’ve lost 2 ‘good guys,’ but another is in stroke recovery
Some reflections and thoughts on some of the “good guys” in sports.
Hughes, News & Views: Memories relived of fallen 'Warrior' who attended ISU for one year
Editor’s note — Amid national media reports that retired pro wrestler The Ultimate Warrior (formerly known in real life as Jim Hellwig) died late Tuesday night at the age of 54, here is a column that David Hughes completed about the man Tuesday afternoon, not realizing Warrior would be dead within 12 hours.
I realize some of you will cringe or perhaps shift your attention to a different story if I mention “pro wrestling” in this column.
But give this stroll down memory lane a chance before you bolt, because I think it’s interesting.
If I’m wrong, feel free to put me in a headlock. Gently, please.
TODD GOLDEN: Waltman's integrity helped him rise to the top
When I began to think about former Indiana State coach Royce Waltman — and I’ve thought about him a lot in recent months as the ravages of a stroke and cancer robbed us of his presence — I thought to myself “what can I print?”
Waltman was many things. Blunt, plain-spoken, unfiltered? All of the above and more. Every Indiana State fan saw Waltman in action … and I had a front row seat for three years right next to him on press row.
Ramblin’ Reck: Irish still alive in women’s tourney
The college basketball season is at an end, while some of the National Basketball Association teams still could be playing late in May.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Missouri Valley is tough — ISU making it tougher
For those who measure the quality of a conference by their place in the Ratings Percentage Index, it was a tough year for the Missouri Valley Conference and its marquee sport: men’s basketball.
The MVC was 11th in conference RPI and took all manner of criticism when Wichita State ran the MVC table for a perfect 18-0 season. The fingers that pointed at the league for fielding a weak challenge to the Shockers’ dominance were many.
Trackside: If weather cooperates, racers are set to start their engines
With any assistance from the weather, the Wabash Valley motorsports season is expected to shift into high gear this weekend on several fronts.
College Report: Valley athletes helping Wabash College
Two Wabash Valley hurdlers helped the Division III Wabash College track and field team go head to head against talent from NCAA Division I schools in the Vanderbilt University Black and Gold Invitational this past weekend.
The Little Giants produced several quality times, including a first-place finish by Northview grad Joel Whittington in the men’s 400-meter hurdles. The junior captured the title with a top time of 54.4 seconds, the fourth quickest recorded for NCAA DIII men this season. Cole Seward, a freshman from Terre Haute North, took third place, crossing the finish line in 55.7.
Ramblin' Reck: April brings showers of closings, openings
It's the first of April, no April fool – a month marking the wrapup of college basketball, the first month of baseball and the close of the regular season in the National Basketball Association.
Hughes, News & Views: West Vigo graduate earns 600th victory as coach; Looking back at 1979 championship game
I haven’t written a column since before the Super Bowl, so now’s a good time to get a few things off my chest:
• Congratulations to Mike Fields — a 1969 West Vigo High School graduate, a 1973 Indiana State grad and a former Terre Haute Tribune part-time sportswriter — for posting the 600th victory of his baseball coaching career.
He accomplished the feat March 3 when his Harmony High School squad defeated Orlando Oak Ridge 11-2 down in Florida.
TODD GOLDEN: ISU's no-excuses approach for real
If you were to ask me what the drawback of covering Indiana State baseball is? I’d be hard-pressed to name very much.
Redneck Quaker: Lidster knows his mushrooms
To be or not to be, mushrooms this year? After looking high and low, I found a legendary Morel mushroom hunter living amongst us here in the Wabash Valley.
You are about to learn all of Richard Lidster’s secrets and knowledge on sneaking up on those elusive creatures. Richard is the oldest of three boys. He’s 67 years old, Mike’s 63 and Steve’s 55.
Til it's over: Long wait finally over for first-year West Vigo baseball coach
My sincerest apology if I jinx it, but winter should be done now. This means, first and foremost, baseball season has arrived. It’s been a long winter for Culley DeGroote, in particular. He takes over the West Vigo program that his father Steve DeGroote built into a perennial winner.
Amey Takes Aim: Columnist’s boys basketball tradition continues
In marked contrast to my recent whiny column about girls basketball, I was blessed this winter to see virtually every high school team in the Wabash Valley during the boys season.
Some might suggest that was a mixed blessing, since a few of our teams weren’t as successful as they are used to being (particularly in the 2014 portion of the season), but the Tribune-Star was still involved with two teams that came within a game of the state finals, one of them in an Indiana final four (no capitalization anymore, new system) and two teams that were in the top eight of their class. That’s only three great teams — Paris was both a game away and in the final eight — but that’s still a pretty good haul.
Weekley is among Hall of Fame honorees
It’s a big week for Indiana basketball. The high school boys state finals will be played Saturday, and former players and coaches will be honored at the annual dinner of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Paul Weekley is one of the former coaches who will be inducted into the Hall.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: ISU never kicked down the door in 2014
After Indiana State’s 91-71 loss Tuesday at Arkansas in the National Invitation Tournament, and in the days since, I can’t help but think of Bum Phillips and the 1980 Houston Oilers as I ponder Indiana State's 2013-14 men's basketball season.
Stay with me.
The Oilers had lost to the all-conquering Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1978 and 1979 AFC Championship games. Despite that, it seemed the Earl Campbell-led squad was the team of destiny to knock the Steel Curtain off their perch.
So much so that Phillips, the wonderfully colorful Oilers coach, said the Oilers would "kick the door down", knock off their black-and-gold nemesis, and win the AFC Central in 1980.
Ramblin' Reck: Three local hoops teams still have shot at titles
Then there were three — Indiana State men, Indiana State women and Clay City, the three teams still playing basketball in our area.
College report: Former Terre Haute South player Conrady returns to coaching
Former Terre Haute South and Furman University basketball standout David Conrady has re-entered the coaching world after a short hiatus. Conrady was recently named head coach of the boys team at Chattanooga Christian, a prep school in eastern Tennessee.
Redneck Quaker: Here’s a lot of stuff to think about
I would like to express how dedicated the folks of the Emmanuel United Methodist are to their religion and all the folks in the community.
Michael Bolin is an inspiration to all, for his love of the outdoors and great fellowship, being a positive up-beat person.
Redneck Quaker: This fisherman has spent 43 years catching ultimate cold ones
I know, it’s getting late in the year for an ice fishing story, but I’ve had several request from you ice walkers! And there’s plenty to learn from Bryan Holland that can be applied next winter.
Ramblin' Reck: Four prep basketball teams still in contention
The season now is over for all but four high school basketball teams in the area.
Ramblin’ Reck: It’s officially Tourney Time in the Valley
The regular season now has ended for most high school and college basketball teams in the area. It’s Tourney Time.
College report: Valley softball pair help Ball State start off with 12-2 record
Two Wabash Valley products have helped the Ball State softball team get off to a 12-2 start, including five straight wins last weekend to capture the Louisville Slugger Invitational at Arizona State.
Redneck Quaker: Edington, Mafioli set up marriage in unique way
Kaylee Edington says being outdoors gets you away from the turmoil in life and that is why they want to include it into the most important things in their lives.
Little did she know a marriage proposal was being planned for her while she was shooting sporting clays in the great outdoors.
Ramblin Reck: Cloverdale riding 10-game winning streak
Illinois high school boys basketball teams commenced postseason play Monday night and teams in Indiana are set to close out the regular season. Two of the teams with top marks in the area are Cloverdale and Clay City and they met last Saturday to cap a good week of basketball.
TODD GOLDEN: Relax, guys: Play loose, have fun
What seems like an end can really be a beginning for Indiana State’s men’s basketball team.
Redneck Quaker: Wabash Valley Limbhangers conducting banquet March 7
Stand by for news!
No, I’m not Paul Harvey, but please read on about a lot of fun that is about to happen in the turkey-hunting and bass-fishing worlds.
Ramblin’ Reck: Regular season winding down in high school basketball
Time flies when you’re having fun … and playing basketball.
It’s hard to believe that the regular season ends this week for high school basketball teams that we cover in Illinois. The postseason begins next Monday.
Paris, Casey and Marshall have the top marks and Robinson has had some good wins playing a tough schedule.
From The Press Box: The nuts and bolts of compiling a Mock Selection for the NCAA Tournament
Before March Madness comes the March mystery of the run-up to Selection Sunday.
- More Sports Columns Headlines
- College Report: Haley Chambers making noise in OVC softball circles