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Published: Friday, 6/29/2007

Conley, Cook join Oden in first round

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS - Ohio State's Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook were all selected in the first round of last night's NBA draft, marking the first time three Buckeyes have ever been chosen in the early round.

No Buckeye had been chosen in the first round since 1992, and the last time more than one Ohio State player was picked in the first round was 1962, when Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek were both selected.

Oden, a 7-foot center and All-American, was chosen first overall by the Portland Trial Blazers. The Memphis Grizzlies grabbed Conley at No. 4, while the Philadelphia 76ers picked Cook at No. 21, before quickly trading him to the Miami Heat.

The three players led Ohio State to the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles as freshmen in 2006-2007 and helped Ohio State to its first NCAA title game in 45 years. All three announced in April their intention to enter the draft after one year of college ball.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta, who was in New York for the draft, said he was honored to have coached all three players.

"They have had a tremendous impact on the Buckeye basketball program," he said in a statement. "I'm certain they will continue to be great ambassadors for our team and Ohio State."

Oden called his selection by Portland "a great thing."

"I'm a better player because of that year in college," he said on ESPN.

Portland general manager Kevin Pritchard told ESPN that Oden's habit of winning was a deciding factor in choosing him over Texas' Kevin Durant, who was selected second by Seattle.

"We started with one thing: Who was going to get us to the championship level?" he said.

Pritchard said the Blazers wanted a center with athletic ability, character and the ability to change a game on either offense or defense.

"Greg fits that bill," he said.

Conley, considered to be the top point guard in the draft, said he's confident he can lead the Grizzlies.

"I'm able to handle whatever situation is thrown at me," he said.

Oden and Conley have played together since they were sixth graders. Both attended Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, leading the school to three straight Class 4A titles.

Conley was asked by ESPN how he would handle playing without Oden.

"I think I'll be fine," he said. "It was great playing with him. He definitely made me a better player, and we had great times together. But I know I can play by myself without him and have the confidence in myself to do whatever I want to do."

As a freshman, Conley led the Big Ten with 6.1 assists and 2.2 steals. He also scored 13.2 points per game and shot 52 percent from the floor.

Team officials said they liked Conley's defensive ability and court sense. Grizzlies coach Marc Iavaroni said he's not worried about Conley's sometimes inconsistent jump shot.

"That is something, frankly, that never scared me," he said. "I never looked at it as an Achilles' heel."

Cook, a 6-foot-5 guard who averaged 9.8 points in 2006-2007, worked out for about 20 NBA teams in recent weeks. He was traded to Miami for Jason Smith, whom the Heat had drafted out of Colorado State with their No. 20 pick.

With Heat point guard Jason Williams entering the final year of his contract, and Gary Payton expected to retire, Cook may be asked to contribute immediately.

Cook worked out for the team in Miami on Sunday and also spent time with Shaquille O'Neal. He said last night that he's ready to contribute right away.

"A lot of critics said I wasn't ready," he said. "I'm happy I'll get the opportunity to prove them wrong."



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