Big fun with ‘Big O’

Ostertag ponders return to NBA

Andrew Hanzel of Lee's Summit, Mo., eyes a size-18 autographed basketball shoe from former Jayhawk and NBA basketball player Greg Ostertag, center, following a scrimmage at the Bill Self basketball camp. At right is Liz Haywood of Greenwood, Mo. Ostertag participated in a scrimmage Wednesday at Horejsi Center.

Greg Ostertag flipped in a one-handed, behind-the-back three-point shot while warming up for the Bill Self campers game Wednesday at Horejsi Center.

“I was just jacking around,” the 34-year-old former Kansas University/NBA center said.

He was more serious during a 45-minute scrimmage involving KU’s current players, as well as former Jayhawk Michael Lee.

The 7-foot-2, 290-pound Ostertag hauled down nine rebounds and scored four points off 1-of-6 shooting in a 75-70 loss.

“I was tired, but it was a lot of fun. It’s always fun coming back here,” said Ostertag, a Duncanville, Texas, native, who played at KU from 1991 to ’95 and followed that with 11 NBA seasons prior to his retirement following the 2005-06 campaign.

Andrew Hanzel of Lee's Summit, Mo., eyes a size-18 autographed basketball shoe from former Jayhawk and NBA basketball player Greg Ostertag, center, following a scrimmage at the Bill Self basketball camp. At right is Liz Haywood of Greenwood, Mo. Ostertag participated in a scrimmage Wednesday at Horejsi Center.

The oft-zany Ostertag transformed himself into a team leader Wednesday. With the score 63-58 following some sloppy turnovers, he called all participants to center court. There, Ostertag delivered a no-nonsense message about playing harder and finishing the first-team-to-score-75 game off right.

“The play was getting a little sloppy. Everybody was getting a little tired, throwing balls all over the place,” said Ostertag. “I said, ‘Just try to settle down and not make the exceptional pass, make the good pass for guys with wide-open jumpers.’ I think right there at the end we played a little better.”

Ostertag – he signed autographs for fans and even presented the size 18 Nikes off his feet to a pair of lucky spectators after the scrimmage – hopes to return to the camp game next summer as an active NBA player.

No fooling.

The “Big O” is seriously pondering an NBA comeback.

Kansas junior guard Mario Chalmers, left, dribbles around former Jayhawk Michael Lee during a scrimmage at the Bill Self Basketball Camp. Current and ex-Jayhawks scrimmaged Wednesday at Horejsi Center.

“First I have to try to get my fat butt in shape,” Ostertag cracked.

But seriously, folks …

“I am still young enough to play,” he said. “Last year was the first time in 24 years I haven’t played. It was fun, but I think I can still do it. I might give it a shot this year. I’ll tell my agent to put my name out there and see what happens.”

Ostertag said “yes” forcibly when asked if he missed the NBA.

“A lot is because I can still do it. I am not going to go out there and play 40 minutes or probably even 20 minutes,” he said. “If I can give 15 minutes here and there, get a couple of rebounds, a couple of blocks for somebody, I’ll do that.

KU's Darrell Arthur puts up a shot during Wednesday's scrimmage.

“Like I said, I missed it, especially playoff time. Those are the times you enjoy the most. The atmosphere is a lot better. It’s a lot more physical. They let you play and so forth. It’s what makes the game fun.”

Ostertag, who had career averages of 5.5 rebounds and 4.6 points per game, said he has started a workout program.

He has been playing pick-up basketball with the Jayhawks since Sunday, when he brought his son, Cody, to town for camp.

“I’ve got some weight to lose. Then I may have to go in and work out for somebody (NBA team). I don’t know how it works. I’ve never been in this situation before,” he said.

KU senior power forward Darnell Jackson, who scored 22 points, including six off a pair of three-pointers, said he was impressed with Ostertag.

“I thought Sasha (Kaun, 17 points, nine rebounds) takes up a lot of space – Greg Ostertag takes up A LOT of space,” Jackson exclaimed. “The only thing I could do was try to use my quickness or shoot the ball real high over his length.”

The 6-8, 250-pound Jackson, who had one vicious dunk after a strong move down the lane, blocked one of Ostertag’s shots.

“It felt good because I said, ‘I’m going to get you,’ and he was like, ‘No, you’re not,”’ Jackson said. “And when he came around and tried to shoot a little baby hook, I got real lucky and timed it great and got a little block.”

Jackson, who did not attempt a three last season, grinned when asked about putting up three threes – the result of jibes from injured teammate Brandon Rush, who sat on the Blue team bench throughout.

“Brandon was messing with me,” Jackson said. “He was like, ‘Man, go out there and shoot about 50 shots like I do.’ So I went out there and tried to be like Brandon Rush. It was a lot of fun.”

¢Stats: Darrell Arthur scored 19 points, while walk-on Conner Teahan hit three threes and had 11 points. Mario Chalmers, whose three ended the game, had 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Kaun, who converted two slams off lobs from Chalmers, had 17 points. Tyrel Reed and Rodrick Stewart each hit six of 13 shots. Stewart scored 13, Reed 12. Lee hit a pair of threes despite playing with an injured right shoulder.

¢Turnout down: Self said he understood why just two alumni made it back for the traditional scrimmage game. He pointed out the fact Aaron Miles is in Milwaukee Bucks minicamp, Julian Wright is doing NBA workouts and Wayne Simien is vacationing in Israel. Jacque Vaughn, Scot Pollard and Drew Gooden just finished their long NBA seasons. Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison are both preparing for their weddings next month.

“It’s good to get those guys back. Hopefully next year we’ll get a few more,” Self said.

¢Friends forever: Three of Self’s former Oklahoma State teammates were in town Wednesday – Leroy Combs, Lorenza Andrews and Ricky Jacobs. Combs, a high school coach in Oklahoma City, is a counselor at the camp.

“I think I look a lot younger than all those three guys,” Self joked. “It’s good to get them back. I don’t get to see them often.”

¢Jackson on Ostertag’s speech: “He just reminded us that when we’re out there playing it’s for the kids. We have to compete for the kids. There was a lot of guys who were getting real competitive, and that’s what we do when we play each – we get real competitive and try to go at each other. So he just told us we have to slow it down and just play basketball.”

¢Coach Rush: Rush had a good time watching the action. “I was coaching over here for a while. That’s why the Blue team won over here. They had a good coach,” he said.

¢ESPNU bonanza: From 2 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, ESPNU will televise over 20 hours of KU men’s basketball. The day is named “Kansas Cram Session” and features several nationally televised games from last year’s 33-5 campaign.