Last weekend, Ohio State hosted three of the top basketball players in the entire country for the class of 2006. One of those players, Mike Conley, was there with his father and came away very impressed.
Monday evening, Bucknuts spoke with Conley's father, Mike, whose name many sports fans will recognize as a former Olympian, specifically a world-class long jumper.
The younger Conley is a 6-1 point guard who plays high school ball at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is widely regarded as perhaps the top point guard in the class of 2006.
Often times, Conley is overshadowed by his high school and AAU teammate, Greg Oden, who is probably the top player overall in the junior class nationally.
Conley visited Ohio State last weekend with Oden, as well Dayton Dunbar junior Daequan Cook, who is ranked as the third best player in the country in 2006, behind -- you guessed it -- Oden and Conley.
Conley's father, who accompanied his son and Oden on the visit, was amazed at what Ohio State has to offer.
"I guess you would have to ask him personally, but it was very impressive," Mike Sr. said. "The arena was very impressive, but after seeing the Horseshoe and the fans there, you can only imagine what it's like for basketball specifically."
"You can get a real good feel of the support for the fans in general, all the way from the A.D. there down to the facilities and the coaches," he added.
Ever since being hired by Ohio State in July, head coach Thad Matta has been busy trying to roundup anyone he could to give Ohio State a good look.
The class of 2006, which is notoriously strong in the state of Ohio, was already familiar with Matta because of being the former Xavier head coach. But many were shocked to learn Matta was able to lure Conley and Oden on campus so very soon.
His father said the interest is very serious, and it wasn't a hard sell to get them to visit.
"He (Mike jr.) was always interested in Coach Matta since the very beginning," Mike Sr. noted. "In the beginning (of his recruitment) they were recruiting him at Xavier, and they have kept contact since then. I don't think he would have been interested in going to Xavier, but (Matta) going to Ohio State, that became quite a bit more attractive to him."
Conley grew up in Arkansas, and at the age of 5 years old, he served as a ball boy for the Razorbacks' basketball team. Oddly enough, he grew up as a Wake Forest fan.
Currently, the elder Conley says that Wake Forest, Arkansas, Indiana, and Michigan State are the primary teams he's considering. Illinois and Kentucky have also recruited him strongly.
Where does this visit put the Buckeyes?
"Ohio State was not originally in the top six schools or so he was looking at," Mike Sr. said. "But I think if you ask him now, Ohio State is probably right up there with the other schools."
He apparently came away very impressed.
"Again, I don't want to speak for him completely, but he liked it. He definitely liked it," the father said. "He was very impressed with the university and very impressed with Coach Matta."
Fans of Ohio State, Wake Forest, and to a lesser extent Indiana, are hoping that with Conley, Oden, and Cook all listing their schools, perhaps a package deal may be in the offing.
Conley's father said that isn't far removed from possibly happening.
"It would be great for them to go to college together," Mike Sr. commented. "I think a lot would have to come together for that to happen, but there's definitely a chance of it happening."
There are a lot of benefits from the three going to school together, and Conley believes the three recognizes that.
"Whenever the three of them have played together, they have lost very few games when they all play," he said. "I think you could probably count the number of losses nearly on one hand. I don't think they can help but sit there and say 'Hey, if we go to school together, we can keep that tradition going.'"
In order to be able to attend school together, the three would have to be assured of even attending college. For Oden, that might be unlikely.
Oden is expected to be a lottery pick out of high school, but recently he has been on record as stating a desire to attend college.
Conley's father expects nothing less.
"For being a 16-year old kid, he needs to say that and he needs to be thinking about college," Conley said. "Where and when and how is another thing, but all sorts of things could happen between now and then. For all we know, the NBA could pass this age limit, and the NBA won't even be an option."
"Right now, his mother and I just need him to concentrate on his grades and worry about school and nothing else," Conley added. "I don't think he could make the decision one way or another right now, but I do know his goal is to go to college and that's where his concentration lies."
Conley, who has seen his son visit Wake Forest, North Carolina, Arkansas, Michigan State, and now Ohio State, has been very supportive with the process, but only hopes wherever Mike goes, the coach will be there to continue looking after him.
"The scary thing for me about college basketball is the turnover in coaching," the father explained. "That worries me. You try to project things three or four years down the road, but very few college coaches will be there in three years."
Coach Matta's arrival and 7-year contract is something that Conley felt would be comforting for him personally.
Is Mike afraid to leave home if the opportunity exists?
"Mike grew up a Wake Forest fan, so going away for college probably
doesn't bother him," Mike Sr. said. "But getting to play with Greg and
Daequan in college at a place like Ohio State would be very interesting to