As numerous rappers have paraphrased, it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at. For Ohio State point guard Mike Conley Jr, that phrase rang particularly true on April 2.
Conley’s Buckeyes took to the floor of the Georgia Dome that evening to face the swaggering Florida Gators with the NCAA Tournament title on the line. The Gators wound up winning, 84-75, though it would have been worse if not for Conley’s efforts. The 6-1 PG finished the game with 20 points and 6 assists, as he kept the Gators off balance with his ability to change tempos faster than a bad club DJ.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the job Michael Conley did tonight, and quite honestly, all year,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said after the loss.
“You know, it hurts to lose any game,” Conley revealed. “To make it this far, it was a great run, you know, with seniors and the guys. I don’t know what else to say about the team.”
Perhaps because there’s not much left to say. The Buckeyes blended the nation’s best freshman class—including Conley, Greg Oden, Daequan Cook and David Lighty—with vets like Ivan Harris and Ron Lewis to compile a wicked 35-4 record.
Most of the attention rightly went to Oden, but Conley was the worm at Ohio State’s core, the perimeter player who repeatedly freed Oden on the inside. Conley and Oden have played together since their school daze at Lawrence North HS in Indiana, so their compatibility was never a question. What was in at least a bit of doubt, however, was their ability to play on the next level. Well, Conley and Oden both earned spots on the NCAA All-Tournament team.
Meanwhile, a funny thing happened to Mike Conley on the way to the Final 4: By the time Ohio State’s season ended, MC had carved himself out a spot in the top 10 of most mock NBA drafts. Stay in school or go pro?
Whatever path he chooses, Conley’s past is the past, and he will most likely lose his longtime partner Oden. Where Conley’s from will be irrelevant by then—but we know wherever he ends up, he’ll be just fine.
This story appears in SLAM 109