Archive for Monday, June 20, 2005

Former Jayhawk Ostertag big man at hoops camp

June 20, 2005


Bill Self asked his 500 or so basketball campers what appeared to be an easy question Sunday afternoon at Horejsi Center.

"Who's the tallest person in the gym today?" Self, Kansas University's third-year hoops coach, quizzed the group during orientation on the first day of his second camp session of the summer.

"Danny Manning," the 8- to 19-year-olds bellowed, referring to the Jayhawks' 6-foot-11 director of basketball operations.

Wrong. Not this day.

Seated inconspicuously against a wall was former Jayhawk center Greg Ostertag, who stretches to 7-2 and weighs 280 pounds.

"I've always been a big fan of Greg's," Self said of the 32-year-old, 10-year NBA veteran who just completed his first year with the Sacramento Kings after nine seasons in Utah.

"I think he doesn't get the credit he deserves basketball-wise. As big as he is, he's a load. He really clogs up the middle, and he's really a solid person. I'd love to have coached him."

Ostertag, who recently picked up a player's option on a two-year deal with the Kings worth $8.4 million, has put together a solid NBA career, mainly as a backup.

This past season was his least productive statistically. Ostertag averaged career-lows in points (1.6 per game) and rebounds (3.0) while averaging 9.9 minutes in 56 contests. He has career averages of 4.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 20 minutes per contest.

"My career is hopefully going up," Ostertag said Sunday. "It went down, but it's hopefully going back up. I've been working out already for next season, playing golf and fishing, something I always do."

Ostertag, a native of Duncanville, Texas, said playing in Sacramento after all those years in Utah - where he won Western Conference title rings in 1997 and '98 - was "different, but good."

"I miss Utah," the soft-spoken big man added, "but at the same time, you have to move on."

Ostertag was Utah's first-round pick in the 1995 draft - 28th overall.

He hit 37 of 84 shots last season for 44 percent. He made just 13 of 38 free throws for 34.2 percent.

"I go out there, get offensive rebounds, try to change shots," Ostertag said, "whether it's rebounding or blocking shots or putting up six to eight points a night. I've never been a major scorer. So, I don't expect much more than that.

"I feel good. I think I still have a good five, six years left."

Ostertag averaged 7.6 points and 6.1 boards during his KU career from 1991 to '95. KU's career leader in blocked shots (258), Ostertag best may be remembered for holding Oklahoma State standout Bryant "Big Country" Reeves scoreless in a 78-62 home victory in 1995 that gave KU the league title.

"I actually saw Greg play quite a bit in high school," Self said. "I recruited 'Big Country,' and of course Greg came here. They played against each other the whole time."

Ostertag said he wasn't sure if he'd be playing in Wednesday's campers game against members of the current KU team. One Ostertag will be competing camp all week, however. Greg's son, Cody, 11, is attending Self's camp for the "fourth or fifth" time, Greg said.

"He does a good job. He plays hard," Greg said of his son. "I love to come back here. I love it here. It's just a great place to be."

Self is honored that a former KU player would bring his son to camp.

"I think it's great when any alums bring their children to camp. It's especially nice when ex-players do," Self said.

"It lets us know these guys are getting up there in years too," the coach needled, "having kids old enough to come to camp."


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