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Know Your KU History: Greg Ostertag

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The Big O

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Before Cole Aldrich became a toothless wonder for Kansas, there was a more intimidating behemoth patrolling the lane for the Jayhawks.  I’m not sure the origin story behind Greg Ostertag’s toothless smile, but one look at Ostertag told you that not replacing that dental work was part of a lifestyle choice. The avid hunter and fisherman embraced the look.

The seven foot two inch monster from suburban Dallas spent his time at KU blocking shots and being a general nuisance for opposing defenses.  In his four seasons at KU, Ostertag set the all-time KU record in blocked shots with 258.  That record has since been broken by Jeff Withey (311), but Ostertag was no less of a monster in the lane in his time at KU.  He is quoted as saying, "For all 258 blocks I had I probably changed triple that" and while there is no way to prove or dispel that, Kansas fans know enough about shot blockers that nothing about that statement seems false.

Here’s a statistical look of Ostertag and Withey head-to-head:

Greg Ostertag

Jeff Withey

Games Played

137

117

Blocks/Game

1.9

2.7

Minutes Played

2042

2319

Blocks/Minute

.126

.134

Blocks/40 Min

5.1

5.4

Anytime you can get a shot-blocking presence like that in your lineup, you’ll take it.

Ostertag came to KU in 1991 and hit the ground running.  Although he didn’t get that many minutes per game in his first two seasons at Kansas (9.7 and 13.4), he was productive none-the-less.  While averaging 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in his freshman campaign doesn’t look that impressive at first blush, when extrapolated over 40 minutes, Ostertag averaged 19.8 and 14.4, strikingly close to his career average per 40 (19.0 and 15.1) so he was as steady as it gets no matter how many minutes he played.

For the record, his career averages at KU were 7.1 points and 6.5 boards per contest, but again, those numbers are misleading.  His highest average in minutes played was 21.1 in his junior season of 1993-94.  Ostertag played most of his career with other quality big men and rebounding masters (Richard Scott, Raef LaFrentz, and Scot Pollard among the notables) and was called upon to change what the opponent did on defense more than score heaps of points from two feet away.

But NBA scouts saw something in Ostertag and he was drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft with the 28th pick to the Utah Jazz. During his time at KU he was constantly compared to Oklahoma State oaf Bryant Reeves and their NBA careers couldn’t have been more different. While Reeves dominated in college and was rewarded by being picked 6th in the ’95 draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies, Ostertag had a far longer, and in many cases, statistically better NBA career.

Greg Ostertag

Bryant Reeves

Years/Games Played

11/756

6/395

PPG/Points per 36

4.6/8.6

12.5/14.7

RPG/Rebounds per 36

5.5/10.1

6.9/8.2

BPG/Blocks per 36

1.7/3.2

0.8/0.9

Ostertag went to the Final Four with KU in 1993, and later the Big O made it to the NBA Finals with the Utah Jazz in 1997 and 1998.  After retiring from the NBA in 2006, Greg Ostertag has been busy.  He is currently the director of Smokehouse Salt Company, a newcomer in the specialty spice market.