Matta, Players Thank Fans

Wednesday evening at Value City arena, over 6,000 energetic fans filed in to celebrate a 35-4 season, Big Ten Championship and appearance in the National Championship game. Each of the Buckeye players showed personality, speaking in question and answer sessions by emcees Bill Hosket and Ronnie Stokes. In addition to Thad Matta speaking, there was also a big announcement. Kyle Lamb was there.

As it turns out, there was a highly anticipated announcement after all.

Wednesday evening at Value City arena, over 6,000 fans serenading the tune of "one more year," were not disappointed. During a question & answer session with members of the 2006-07 Ohio State basketball team, freshman walk-on Mark Titus interrupted a question from emcee Bill Hosket, ending speculation.

Sort of.

"I heard the fans chanting, 'one more year'," added Titus to the question of what it was like starting out a manager and ending up playing this season, "I just wanted you to know that after sitting down with my family to talk about it, I would be back next  year."

The joke drew a large chorus of laughter from the energetic crowd that battled chilly temperatures and rainy condiotions to welcome home a team that won more games than any other in school history.The announcement, a joke about pending decisions from freshmen Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook - who Titus played with on the Spiece Indy Heat AAU team, wasn't overlooked later by OSU head coach Thad Matta.

"I haven't been able to sleep the last nine days," he said turning to look at Titus, who turned down Harvard to enroll this season at Ohio State, "but I can sleep now that Mark Titus has announced he's coming back."

The playful exchange was one of many by Matta's team who finished 35-4 and won a second straight outright Big Ten Championship. Although most showed up wishing to celebrate a run that ended in the National Championship game against Florida, Matta said the evening was planned with other intentions.

It actually was to thank the fans for their continued support this season.

"The support has been great from you all year," he said. "Tonight surprised me. I thought I was going to be talking to my wife and my kids.

"I think people got the message wrong," Matta added. "I didn't want this night for you to thank us, I wanted to thank you for all of your support."

Matta reiterated his mindset from three years ago when he accepted the Ohio State position as the head coach at Xavier. He said he's continually impressed with the fans' love for their team.

"Until I got this job," he said, "I never knew how much passion you guys had for the Buckeyes."

On display in front of the podium were the Big Ten Championship and South Regional Championship trophies from this season as Matta, OSU director of athletics Gene Smith and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman all addressed the fans.

Coleman began the evening by thanking seniors Ron Lewis and Ivan Harris and also handed them a newly named street sign, Buckeye Nation Lane.

But even the honorable Coleman couldn't resist interjecting his opinion on other matters.

"I hate to single out a couple of players," he said. "But three freshmen - Mike Conley, Daequan Cook and Greg Oden have something in common - they all have the letter 'O' in their names.

"The 'O' stands for two things," Coleman added. "It stands for The Ohio State University and it also stands for, 'one more year.'"

That drew a standing ovation from the crowd, prompting chants of "one more year" for nearly 30 seconds.

Even Hosket, who along with former Ohio State guard and current color analyst on the Ohio State radio network Ronnie Stokes, shed light on the decision when sitting down for interviews with Oden and Conley in front of the large audience.

"I'm the one that gets to ask the question that's on everyone's mind," he said turning to Oden. "What did you have today for lunch?"

Before the laughter settled, the witty Oden quickly replied, "chicken."

Although the trio of freshmen didn't settle their collective futures on Wednesday, they were made welcome despite their possibility of declaring for the NBA draft before the April 29 deadline.

While the attention was on those three, Matta singled out Lewis and Harris for their efforts along with former players Brandon Fuss-Cheatam, Tony Stockman, Terence Dials, J.J. Sullinger, Je'Kel Foster and Matt Sylvester for helping "bring back" Ohio State basketball.

Lewis had a message of his own for Matta.

"I thank the coaching staff for bringing me back to Columbus - they didn't have to take me but they did," he said. "I'm looking forward to see what they do next year and for years to come.

"Coach," Lewis emphasized the longevity, "for years to come."

The question & answer sessions included Titus and Danny Peters, Kyle Madsen and Othello Hunter, Cook and David Lighty, Conley and Oden, Jamar Butler and Matt Terwilliger as well as Lewis and Harris.

Madsen sat out this season due to NCAA transfer regulations. The former Dublin Coffman high school standout redshirted upon his arrival from Vanderbilt, although he was able to practice all season long.

Hosket told a story of Madsen's inability to dress on the road because of NCAA rules and how Oden has embraced him.

"Oden went to Matta after the Final Four victory against Georgetown and said, 'coach, can Kyle come celebrate in the locker room with us?'" Hosket explained.

Madsen, who had been in the crowd in Atlanta, was asked if that was just Greg being Greg or if it was his work playing Roy Hibbert in practice.

"That's just Greg being Greg," he said. "Although clearly, I resemble Roy Hibbert."

In closing, Matta said his team was the closest he's had in coaching. He said, "whatever, whenever, wherever we asked them to do something - they did it."

Matta also indirectly addressed the biggest question of the night.

What will happen with the freshmen?

"I don't know what October 15 (the start of practice) will hold for this program," Matta said, referring to whether or not his team will include three highly touted sophomores. "Like I said, I don't know what the future holds. If it holds what I hope it does, you're going to see one hell of a basketball team."

At least now Matta can chalk up Mark Titus.

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