- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2006

When Oral Roberts comes calling at Verizon Center today, Georgetown’s Jeff won’t be the game’s most accomplished Green.

Caleb Green has spent his entire career defying the experts.

The power forward nobody wanted as a lightweight high school senior has spent three-plus seasons torturing the opposition for Oral Roberts. If Nevada’s Nick Fazekas is the monarch of the mid-majors, Green, the two-time Mid-Continent MVP, is the nation’s small conference sultan.

Just ask Kansas.

Less than a month ago, Oral Roberts (4-3) entered one of college basketball’s holiest hoops temples as a 28-point underdog only to exit Allen Fieldhouse with a 78-71 victory over then-No. 3 Kansas. Though few outside Kansas witnessed it, Green’s stat sheet-taxing performance against the Jayhawks (20 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, five steals) unquestionably stands as the most masterful turned in by any Division I player thus far this season.

“Caleb Green was brilliant,” Kansas coach Bill Self said after watching the 6-foot-8, 255-pound senior from Tulsa orchestrate the upset. “We’ve got guys like Brandon Rush and Julian Wright and Mario Chalmers who get a lot of attention. But any NBA scout will tell you Caleb Green was by far the best player in this game. No one was even close.”

Georgetown coach John Thompson III was one of the few who wasn’t surprised by that result. Two years ago in his debut season on the Hilltop, Thompson saw Green ravage his Hoyas for 26 points and 10 rebounds as Oral Roberts pasted the Hoyas 81-63 in the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii.

“He’s a Terps player,” Thompson said of Green, who enters today’s game averaging 21.0 points and 9.6 rebounds this season. “He’s poised. When he posts up, he has a knack for getting it in the hole or finding an open teammate. Or he can pull you out and take you off the dribble. Offensively, he’s just a load. It’s very hard to guard the guy.”

So how does a player with such skills end up at Oral Roberts?

“Loyalty, it’s that simple,” Green said in a interview earlier this week. “Oral Roberts recruited me from the beginning, when I was a sophomore and nobody else was really paying me any mind. They were loyal to me, and that’s why I stuck with them.”

Amazingly, Green had few other options in spite of a senior high school season (2002-03) in which he carried Tulsa’s Memorial High to the state title in Oklahoma’s largest classification by averaging 21.2 points and 14.7 rebounds while earning the state’s Mr. Basketball award. In-state powers Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both felt he was too thin (then 190 pounds) to find a frontcourt home in the rugged Big 12.

And even as he approaches the 2,000/1,000 career plateau for points (1,952) and rebounds (941) achieved by only 76 players in Division I history, Green is encountering skepticism from NBA scouts. Some see the next Malik Rose and project Green as a late first-round pick. Others question his defense, his jumper and his height, labeling him as a dreaded “tweener” and casting him into the purgatory occupied by college players too small to play power forward and too slow or unskilled to play the wing at the next level.

Green responds to his critics with characteristic humility: “I’ve got a lot I need to work on. Defensively, I’m not where I need to be. And offensively, I have to step out and knock down more shots.”

Green also knows that the most persuasive proof is supplied in the glare of the spotlight. To that end, his goals for this season are simple: return Oral Roberts to the NCAA tournament and improve upon last season’s one-and-out performance. And while the surest route to the NCAAs involves winning the MCC tournament, there’s serious insurance, and considerably more exposure, available against relative goliaths like Kansas and Georgetown (5-3).

“The agenda since I got here was putting ORU basketball on the map, and what better way to achieve that than by competing on a national stage with thousands of people watching,” said Green, who admitted he’s doubly excited about today’s possible head-to-head matchup with Hoyas’ standout forward Jeff Green. “Offensively, I think he’s fantastic. It will be a joy going up against a player of that caliber who plays for a program that commands such respect.”

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