By Lang Whitaker
Portriats by Scott Council
They will always be together, in name if not in being. Even though they come from different parts of the country, play different positions on the court and own dissimilar body types, Kevin Durant and Greg Oden will forever be their generation’s Larry and Magic, tied together through hype and hope as much as anything else.
As the 2007 Draft approaches, much is unsettled, yet one thing we know is true: Two lucky NBA franchises are about to be blessed with players who will anchor their teams for years to come. One team will be asked to select one guy and forever quantify him over the other guy as somehow better. The facts are these: During his freshman season at Ohio State, Greg Oden established himself as a hellish post presence and game changer, while Kevin Durant needed just one season at Texas to convince everyone that he was the preeminent offensive force in all of college hoops. Which player deserves to be selected in that number-one spot? SLAM turned to Kevin and Greg to get to the heart of the matter. Hear them out and make up your own mind.
We report. You decide.
SLAM: What was the best advice you received going into your college career?
GO: The big thing was just time management. When you go into college, you have a lot of stuff to do—you’ve got to be here, get to class on time—so the big thing that I got was time management. And basketball-wise, the big thing was to just play, it’s basketball. I knew all these guys were older than me, but it’s still basketball.
KD: It was just repetitive advice, over and over, telling me to work hard. Always be the last one out the gym. Be coachable—that was probably the biggest thing. Always listen to my coaches and don’t give them no attitude and just play my hardest.
SLAM: When did you realize you were going to be a great college player?
KD: I never knew that I was going to score like I did. My teammates was the biggest thing. They got me the ball in the right positions to score and ran a lot of plays for me, so it really wasn’t all me. When we played pick-up games before the season, I was thinking, Man, maybe I can be all right in college one of these days. As I continued to work harder I got better every day. It just translated to the court.
GO: In my mind I always have doubts, just wondering how I’m going to be able to play in any game that I play. So me, coming into college, I was worried about how I was going to play. I was scared; I had my wrist injury and I thought that was going to set me back even more. Things turned out well, but believe me, every game I’m nervous, I’m sweating, my heart’s pounding. I get butterflies before every game.
SLAM: What was the whole college experience like for you?
GO: I loved it. Just being around the students and being able to go out and have fun with people of your age, your peers, who love to learn and go out and have fun with each other. Especially being at Ohio State, with so many people, you get to meet new people every day.
KD: For me it was a big adjustment. Coming from a real small high school, there was a lot of people at Texas. But it was fun learning new things, seeing new people every day, so it was a great experience for me. I also went to all the home football games. I never went to a school with a football team before, so every chance I got to support the football team I went.
SLAM: Did the attention on campus ever get overwhelming?
KD: A lot of people who stopped me would say things like, We have season passes and you guys were great, or something like that. It wasn’t so bad.
GO: To be honest with you, during the year it wasn’t that bad. It got a little bothersome after the Tournament, but during the regular school year, it wasn’t bad.
SLAM: What was your favorite class in college?
GO: My History of Rock and Roll class. It wasn’t like Math 101 or nothing like that, but I enjoyed it. It was something that I got interested in and I paid attention to. I did not know anything about rock and roll. And to be honest with you, it taught me a lot how blues really started all music. I’m not going to say I listen to any rock groups now, but…
KD: I had an acting class. We had to act out scenes, but I was a jokester in that class. That’s what got me an A. I just had fun and didn’t really care what people thought about me. I had to memorize lines for our final project. It was fun.
SLAM: Do you think you could have excelled in the NBA straight out of high school?
KD: I don’t even know, man. But I know right now I have a better chance of being an OK player in the NBA because I went to college. I’ve matured a lot. It was a blessing in disguise, really. A lot of people say, Man, they’re not letting those kids get that money. But it helped me out so much that I don’t even care.
GO: No, I don’t think I was ready for it straight out of high school. Just gaining experience and being able to learn so much, especially the attention to detail in the college game. Being able to have this year playing against different competition that’s not high school guys, that helped me a lot.
SLAM: Should high school ballers be forced to attend at least some college?
GO: I think it would be good for them, but there are some exceptions, and there’s no way of getting past that. Certain players like a LeBron, every once in a while you’re going to have guys who can come in and contribute in the League, but I feel like for the regular guy who’s OK, who’s borderline, who thinks they’re good but has a little bit of doubt, they should go to college.
KD: It depends on the player. If a player’s ready out of the gates, why stop him? It’s helping the college game, though, but it’s not about everybody else. It’s about what that player wants and what he thinks is good for him and his
family. It’s changed now anyway, and you can’t do nothing about it.
SLAM: Was there a low point for you last season?
KD: Yeah, definitely, a couple of low points, man. First exhibition game I didn’t play well at all. Against Villanova I didn’t play well at all. A couple of games I didn’t play well, but we won so it really didn’t matter. But we lost against Villanova and I played terrible. That was the low point, but right after that I bounced back. My teammates and coaches, they gave me confidence and encouraged me a lot, and I bounced back.
GO: A low point for me was probably my injury. I definitely felt bad about it the entire time, because I just wanted to get out there, especially watching the games. And my lowest point was watching the North Carolina game, because I felt I could contribute so much to that game, and that atmosphere was just great, and I didn’t have a chance to play in that atmosphere.
SLAM: What was the high point?
GO: The Final Four was great, but you know we lost, so I can’t really count that as the high point. Getting there, so close to what we wanted to accomplish as a team—winning the national championship. It was a great atmosphere, but too bad more than half of them was cheering for Florida. There was a lot of Ohio State fans, but during the game you could see there were more for Florida.
KD: I would say when we beat Texas A&M at home, that was a high point for myself and my teammates. We needed both those games, in the Tournament and the conference tournament. Also, winning the Player of the Year award, because I never thought that was going to happen. It was a great year for me.
SLAM: Is there anything you’d change to make college easier for student-athletes?
KD: Once you’re in college, you’re on your own. If they change stuff they’re just babying you, really. When you go to college you’re supposed to grow up. I can attest for myself that I learned so much, met so many people, made so many new friends that will stick with me forever. I had some great moments, funny moments, some down moments, but it was one of the best times of my life.
GO: I mean, we’re broke. You get tired of that same old food and you’re like, Man, I want something else. But you don’t have time to, like, get a job and really do anything else. Unless you got parents who can give it to you, you’re dang near out of luck. They’re too strict about what the players can get, because it is a full-time job but we don’t have time to really work and get money.
SLAM: Do you guys know each other at all?
GO: Yeah, I have met Kevin a couple of times. He’s
a real cool dude. I’ve got much respect for his game and for him as a person. Everybody saw what he did this year in college—he tore it up like it was nothing. Being named in the same sentence as somebody like that, I mean, that’s an honor to me.
KD: Me and Greg are friends. He’ll tell you himself that there’s no rivalry between us.
SLAM: Is it fair that you guys will always be compared to each other?
KD: If we played one-on-one he’d probably take me, because he’s too big and strong for me. With Magic and Bird it was different, because they actually played against each other in college. With me and Greg, people have just been saying since high school that we were one and two. People talked about one more than the other, whatever. But Greg and I play two different positions. It’s not even the same thing at all.
GO: When they compare us, hands down he’s going to win in a one-on-one game because that’s his game. I’m a big man—I go in the post and I dunk the ball and I rebound and block shots. His game is outside. When you compare us one-on-one he’s going to win, that’s unfair to me. You’ve got people who look at us as the best college players. I know he is, I don’t know if I’m up there yet.
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