ESPN, Fox Sports and CBS Sportsline are all reporting the three will announce Friday they're making their names eligible for the NBA Draft.
In the reports, Oden will sign with an agent, meaning he is unable to withrdrawal his name and return to Ohio State before the June 18 deadline. The 7-1 center returned after missing the team's first seven games to average 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds in earning first team All-American this season.
Meanwhile, sources tell Scout | Ohio State that Conley and Cook will enter the draft, but will not sign with an agent, keeping a possible return to Ohio State for their sophomore seasons still possible. The three are all eventually going to sign with Mike Conley Sr., who recently became certified by the NBA as a sports agent and has started his own firm. However, sources say that while Conley and Cook are leaning toward staying in the draft, they have not completely ruled out a return.
In order for Conley and Cook to maintain their college eligibility, they would need to follow a series of guidelines that including staying in school, not signing with any agents, not accepting any form of gifts or travel expenses and also withrdrawaling their names before June 18. Should all three remain in the draft, Ohio State will again have 10 scholarship players on the roster for the 2007-08 season.
Although Ohio State would have available scholarships to possibly search for another guard, via junior college or high school, it's unlikely Buckeye head coach Thad Matta would find someone of quality at this juncture. Even if so, Ohio State may not want to take another player with five recruits coming in this summer and another five next summer.
Ohio State is staring at just two of the "Thad Five" remaining, in the school's most highly anticipated recruiting class ever. Although just David Lighty and Othello Hunter remain from a group challenged only by North Carolina in terms of size and quality, Cook, Conley and Oden helped lead Ohio State to a first appearance in the National Championship since 1962.
The expected announcements come after a roller coaster ride for Buckeye coaches and fans. At various points in the season, Oden was believed privately to have been returning while both Cook and especially Conley have said publicly they would return for at least one more season.
The trio, teammates together for the Spiece Indy Heat (coached by Conley Sr.), were serenaded at Ohio State's pep rally last week to celebrate the 35-4 season. Chants of, "one more year," echoed on a couple of occasions in Value City arena before 6-7,000 fans.
With Oden gone, Ohio State will turn to seniors Hunter and Matt Terwilliger as well as freshman Dallas Lauderdale in the post. Kosta Koufos, a 7-1 forward/center will also be counted on for key minutes in the frontcourt as well as redshirt Vanderbilt transfer, Kyle Madsen.
The perimeter will also get younger.
Jamar Butler will likely return to point guard for his senior season - the very position he led Ohio State to a Big Ten title in 2006-06. However, Butler and Lighty will be joined by another freshmen trio Jon Diebler, Evan Turner and Eric Wallace. Diebler became Ohio's all-time scoring leader, passing a record that stood for 23 years by former Buckeye Jay Burson.
With Conley and Cook returning, Ohio State could make noise as one of the top teams in the country and a definite Big Ten and National Championship contender. Without, the Buckeyes should likely make a third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance but might have a hard time beating Michigan State and Indiana for a third straight conference title.
In the meantime, Ohio State fans are left to patiently wait for several more weeks to see if Conley and Cook do an about-face and give fans, "one more year."