Matta Arrives In Indy; Lewis Back At Nike

Ohio State coach Thad Matta arrived in Indianapolis Friday to attend the Nike All-American Camp. But, in addition to the prospects on display, Matta had a chance to also observe senior guard Ron Lewis in action. Lewis is at the camp as a counselor. Matta and Lewis provided details on the team's workouts and the status of injured center Greg Oden. Click here for more.

Ohio State head coach Thad Matta blew into Indianapolis on Friday to observe a number of key prospects – including verbal commitments Kosta Koufos and Jon Diebler – at the Nike All-American Camp.

But Matta, who spent Thursday at the ABCD Camp in New Jersey, also had a keen eye watching one of his current players on display at Nike.

Senior guard Ron Lewis is among an estimated group of 30 college players serving as advisors at the Nike Camp. The college players go through their own set of drills each day with experienced coaches.

"Today was the first time I've seen him play since our season ended," Matta said. "I think watching him today, I like the stuff they are doing putting him in situations. Going against great players is good for him. He needs to work on finishing better, improving his left hand and awareness defensively. That's something he has to keep building on.

"He's athletic enough. He's long enough. I think he can be more involved defensively."

Lewis said he appreciates the invitation to join a number of other top-name college players, including LSU's Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Oregon's Malik Hairston, Indiana's D.J. White and A.J. Ratliff and others.

"I approach this as straight business," Lewis said. "There are a lot of great players here who are trying to get to the next level. We're going hard. We're doing drills together. Everybody has an opportunity and you have to make your opportunity known at the right time and this is the right time."

Lewis finds himself back at IUPUI, where he attended the 2001 Nike Camp as he was heading into his senior year at Columbus Brookhaven.

"I was here going into my senior year," he said. "It was the same kind of competition with guys like Amare Stoudamire and Hassan Adams. It was great competition."

Matta said he is leaning heavily on Lewis as well as junior point guard Jamar Butler to lead the Buckeyes through summer open gyms and workout sessions. By rule, the coaches can only have limited interaction with the players in the off-season.

"They are doing a great job with that," Matta said. "We're on those guys about it. We're not involved. We're not in there. They need to run the show and get the young guys involved and show them how to do things. That's huge for us."

Matta and the Buckeyes will welcome in a star-studded freshman class this fall, including center Greg Oden, point guard Mike Conley and wings David Lighty and Daequan Cook.

Lewis was asked if he expects to reprise his role as OSU's sixth man or if he feels he'll be in the starting lineup this season.

"My role is to come in and do whatever is possible," Lewis said. "If Coach Matta starts me, he starts me. If he brings me off the bench, he brings me off the bench. I look at myself as a starter. I'm a person that is a senior and I've been in the program. I look at myself as one of the leaders on the team."

Matta believes Lewis can be a starter this year.

"I don't ever project a starting lineup until November, but I would think he would be in that type of situation," Matta said. "He's a fifth-year player. We'll need some experience out there."

Coming off a Big Ten championship season, Lewis knows he and the rest of the returning players must show the way for the younger guys if they expect to repeat.

"It's real exciting," Lewis said. "We can go in and do great things. That's what we're about. We did great things last year. We're trying to expand those things this year with a great group of guys we have now.

"Me, Jamar and Matt (Terwilliger) are kind of the veterans on the team. We have to take charge. They're good, but they're still freshmen and they really don't know what we do in this program. We have to take charge and get them together.

"When we do our drillwork, me and Jamar lead the drills and the younger guys follow along. We have a situation with five new players on the team. We have to get those guys ready. They have to step in and play. It's key for us to get everybody going. When practice starts, they will already be in tune with what's going on."

The Wrist Is History

Much of the buzz surrounding the team centers on the status of Oden, the nation's No. 1 prep prospect this past year. He underwent surgery on his right wrist in June. Reports say it could take anywhere from three to six months for the wrist to heal.

"I think he comes back over here to the doctor this weekend or next weekend," Matta said. "I think he is just coming back over for a check-up."

The coach could provide no update on Oden's prognosis for recovery.

"I don't know," he said. "Right now, it's way too early from what I know and what the doctors think."

The Buckeyes are scheduled to visit North Carolina Nov. 29 for an early season showdown in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Lewis said it would be nice if OSU is at full strength for that key game, but the bigger picture and Oden's health for the season in total is more important.

"We do (want him there), but we're not going to take anything from that," Lewis said. "If he can't play, he can't play. But we're still going to go down there and try and get that win.

"They say he'll be back in December, but I don't know. People say different things. Only time will tell and he will know when he is ready to play."

Oden has been a regular at OSU's summer workouts at the Schottenstein Center. Lewis is impressed with the center's ability to elevate and now sees what all the fuss has been about.

"His head is over the rim," Lewis said. "I can tell you that. I didn't know he had hops like he did as a 7-footer. You realize that he is a 7-footer that, I think, compares with Dwight Howard because he can jump so high."

They Were Only Freshmen

The four freshmen are all taking classes at OSU this summer.

"The problem is we don't get to do a lot with them," Matta said. "But I think everybody is adjusting well. Using this time wisely is important for us. Getting off to a good start academically is important. Trying to get them to understand what college is all about is probably the biggest thing I am concerned with."

Lewis has been impressed with what he has seen. The youngsters arrived with little fanfare and went right to work, he said.

"They're showing me great effort and they're showing me they can play," he said. "I had never seen them play. When they came in, it was great. They came in ready to work and ready to get down to business and that's what we're all about."

Lewis was asked what Conley, in particular, has shown in the open gyms.

"He's showing me a lot of toughness and that he can handle a team and he can handle the rock," Lewis said. "I know he played under Greg. I didn't know he could play as well as he has. He has shown me a lot. He can push the ball and find people when they're open and he can also knock down a shot."

Likewise, he shared his impressions of what he has seen out of Cook and Lighty.

"Cook likes to shoot the outside jumper," Lewis said. "That's what I learned about him. He's great at that. Lighty is the same thing, but he likes to also be around the basket. We all have our own niches and those are the kind of things they do well."

Junior college transfer Othello Hunter is the only absent Buckeye this summer. He is still finishing classwork in Florida to facilitate his transfer to Ohio State.

Also Notable

* With the departures of Sylvester Mayes and Brayden Bell, OSU will play the season with just nine scholarship players. That number will be eight as long as Oden is on the shelf.

"It's the hand we're dealt, so I don't even think about it," Matta said. "We were short on numbers this past year. It is what it is, as they always tell me. We have to find a way to make it."

The coach said he hasn't done much to seek out depth from possible walk-on players.

"I haven't even thought about it," he said. "Our thing is right now to get the guys we have acclimated to Ohio State in terms of school. Sam Payne, what a blessing he's been for us. If there is somebody out there, we will definitely take a look at them."

* Former Buckeye Chris Jent continues to be around the team. Lewis said he plays with the players in open gyms, but he, too, is precluded from serving as an on-court coach in the summer.

"We have to run our own drills," he said. "(Jent) can be in there, but he can't teach us anything. He's playing with us. He brings an element of toughness. He plays hard all the time. He doesn't back down from anybody. He's in very good shape."

* Lewis got a strong impression of Koufos, who joined the team for one recent open gym session.

"Koufos has been down one time and played with us," Lewis said. "I think he is a great player. I think he is going to get even better. He's also a great kid. He likes to work. He likes to stay in the gym."

* Lewis said he and other college players at Nike have had opportunities to mentor the campers.

"The other day there was a setting where they got to ask us questions about college and what it's all about, just so they can be prepared," he said. "They wanted to know how we adjusted from high school to college. You have to play hard every night."

* Lewis has been selected as OSU's representative for the Big Ten Foreign Tour to Australia in August. Michigan coach Tommy Amaker will assemble the team.

"I go to Michigan for the training camp Aug. 4," he said. "We go to Australia Aug. 8. I've never been there before. I am really excited about that. It should be a lot of fun."

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