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June 27, 2007

Before they were stars: Greg Oden

Once upon a time they were just kids.

They weren't yet stooping to get through doorways or hitting jumpers from everywhere. They weren't yet identified as future millionaires.

But they already possessed the type of talent and desire that would allow them eventually to realize their dreams.

As part of its NBA Draft coverage, Rivals.com has ventured to find the stories behind the stories. We have talked to the high school coaches of potential draft picks to ask where these players came from and what separated them from the rest of the crop.

Don't be surprised if you find some common traits in each of these prospects.

Greg Oden, C, Ohio State
High school: Indianapolis Lawrence North Coach: Jack Keefer
When is the first time you remember thinking Greg could play professionally someday?: You knew he had the potential to play a couple of levels up because he's so athletic. There are a lot of tall people who don't play pro ball, but with his combination of height and athleticism, I knew he had a shot. He was probably 6-8 as an eighth-grader and in the neighborhood of 6-10 by the time he got here as a freshman. But he was a gifted 6-10 player. There's a tremendous upside to him athletically. One time they were throwing the ball to the area of his head, and we said, "Show them how high you can jump." He just took one step, jumped and got it above the white square (on the basketball goal).

What game sticks out the most in your memory when you look back on his high school career?: He played a game in our sectional level when we were playing the No. 3 team in the nation, Arlington High School. Their whole philosophy was to drive at Greg until they fouled him out, so they just kept coming at him and coming at him. He rejected the ball 18 times (in a 60-45 victory). He set the school record for blocked shots in one game. They never did foul him out. It was just a very physical game, and he controlled the tempo. They weren't going to give up on him until he fouled out, and he just kept jumping up and not touching anybody.

How often do you keep in touch with him?: He's in town now, so we touch base a little bit. He's working out with a full-time trainer and trying to get ready for the pros.

When do you expect him to get drafted?: I would think if a pro team has got any brains at all, he goes No. 1. I understand the guy from Texas (Kevin Durant) can play, but right now in the pros you have four or five guys who have a long, lean body like he does (Tracy) McGrady and all of them. They can all affect the game and they're very good. But in the pros right now, there aren't as many big men. (Tim) Duncan probably affects the game more than anybody. Greg Oden can affect the game as much as Duncan with his defense and offense. There are only a few guys who can play at that level. Those guys are few and far between. Durant can affect the game offensively, but Greg affects the game by offense and defense. He can affect the game in so many different ways. He's too valuable to pass up.

Greg Oden in action: College video | High school video

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