Ostertag wants back in NBA

Former KU center works out with Trail Blazers

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, who retired from professional basketball three years ago at the age of 33, wants to play in the NBA again.

“I just miss it,” the 7-foot-2 Ostertag said Thursday in an interview with the Journal-World — one in which he made it clear he’s ready to entertain offers from any team in need of a backup center.

“Watching the playoffs last year got me excited. My wife said, ‘Why not go try it again?’ One day I said, ‘What the heck. I’ll get in shape and get back on the court and give it a try.’

“I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Ostertag, 36, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., with wife Heidi and children Cody, Bailey and Shelby, was invited to travel to Portland last week to work out with the Trail Blazers. Portland thus far is the only team to entertain the possibility of letting the 278-pound former Kansas University pivot resume a career that spanned 11 seasons.

“I did all right. I’m rusty. I’d not picked up a ball seriously in three years,” said Ostertag, who played for both Utah and Sacramento. “I have some cobwebs. The more I play, the quicker I’ll get it back. Now I’m trying to get in good shape and get stronger. The basketball will come.”

Ostertag, who helped KU to a berth in the 1993 Final Four, believes he can provide a team up to 15 minutes off the bench.

“Size, blocking shots and putbacks, setting screens, not letting anybody get easy layups,” Ostertag said of what he can bring to the table. “Nobody ever put the ball in my hand and said, ‘Go to work,”’ Ostertag said of scoring.

Ostertag, who made $48,251,390 during his days in the NBA, isn’t money-motivated right now. He’s been frugal with his earnings and is set for life financially.

“The more I get into it, the more I want to play,” Ostertag said. “I’ve been working hard since June to get weight off to where I can be productive. I’m in the mode I don’t want to work this hard for nothing. I want to get my feet planted somewhere, get in veterans camp, and in the preseason maybe somebody will like what they see.”

Chris Emens, senior director of Octagon Basketball, an agency that represents Ostertag, believes his client can be an asset to the Blazers or any other NBA team.

“Greg brings interior defense, rebounding, shot-blocking, playoff and championship-game experience and most importantly for teams in contention, he knows how to win,” Emens said.

Most NBA teams are expected to carry just 13 or 14 players this season because of budgetary concerns, instead of the maximum-allotted number of 15.

“It depends if somebody has room,” Ostertag said. “I’m not asking for 30 minutes, but give me a chance to compete for playing time, that’s all.

“If I don’t make an NBA roster, I’ll go back to what I was doing — hunting, golfing, fishing,” added Ostertag, who isn’t interested in playing in Europe or the NBA Developmental League.

If he doesn’t make it back to the league, he’ll continue to compete in one of his favorite sports: ice hockey.

Ostertag, believe it or not, competes year-round in a no-checking league in Scottsdale.

“I think I had five or six goals this summer,” said Ostertag, who is a wing. “It’s fun, good exercise and a way to get out of the house.”

He also enjoys watching son, Cody, play basketball. Cody Ostertag is a 6-foot-5 sophomore at Scottsdale Christian Academy.

“He has a lot of potential,” Ostertag said.

Ostertag also has an interesting hobby: baking cakes.

He recently showed an Arizona Republic reporter a slide show of his cakes — a Cardinals-Steelers Super Bowl cake, a wedding cake and his daughter Shelby’s swim cake.

“Just learning how to make the icing, color the icing, the shapes, how to draw, that’s the hard part,” Ostertag told the Republic. “I just get an idea in my head and go from there. My handwriting isn’t that great.”

He learned how to cook as a child in Duncanville, Texas.

“Just from watching my mom, I learned how to do it,” Ostertag said. “I’ve made some for my kids for their birthdays. I made a couple for my mom for her birthdays.”