Green, Tutt have one goal: getting Oral Roberts back to NCAA tournament

Wednesday, October 25th 2006, 10:20 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Ask Caleb Green and Ken Tutt what brought them to Oral Roberts University, and they'll give you the same answer: loyalty to the coaches who recruited them.

Their loyalty to each other helped take the Golden Eagles last season to a height the program hadn't reached in 22 years, the NCAA tournament.

Now, playing what likely will be their final basketball season together, Green and Tutt want not only to return to the NCAA tournament, but also to win a game or two _ or more _ once they're there.

``We've got the type of team that we expect we should go to the tournament,'' Tutt said Wednesday during ORU's media day at the Mabee Center. ``But we've got to go out there and play and prove it on the court.''

The Golden Eagles won their second straight regular-season Mid-Continent Conference title last season. In 2005, ORU lost in the Mid-Con tournament championship game to Oakland (Mich.), a loss that relegated the Golden Eagles to the National Invitation Tournament.

But last season, ORU beat Chicago State in the conference tournament finale to qualify the Golden Eagles for their first NCAA tournament berth since 1984, when they were known as the Titans. ORU received a No. 16 seed and lost 94-78 to top-seeded Memphis in a first-round game, finishing 21-12.

Despite the early exit, just making the tournament showed how far Oral Roberts had come since Tutt and Green arrived as freshmen for the 2003-04 season.

That they ended up at Oral Roberts _ and not at a school in a more prominent league _ is something ORU coach Scott Sutton attributes both to good recruiting and good fortune. Both signed in November, before their senior seasons, and Green went on to be named the Oklahoma prep player of the year.

``They both slipped through the cracks a little bit,'' Sutton said. ``We were able to get them both early. If we hadn't, I don't know if we could have gotten them late, to be honest with you.''

Both not only earned starting jobs as freshmen, but both made the Mid-Con's first-team all-conference list, the first time two freshmen from any NCAA Division I conference had been so honored in 73 years. Tutt received the league's newcomer of the year honors.

Green, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward out of Tulsa Memorial High School, earned Mid-Con player of the year honors as a sophomore and junior and received honorable mention on The Associated Press' All-America list both seasons.

Last season, he averaged 20.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. With 1,805 career points and 874 career rebounds, he's on pace to join Marc Acres _ who later played in the NBA _ as the second player in ORU history to reach 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. He also has a realistic shot at breaking the Mid-Con's career records in those two categories.

He's also one of 50 players on the preseason watch list for the Wooden Award, given annually to the nation's best player.

Tutt, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound shooting guard from Garland, Texas, has 235 career 3-pointers and is ninth on the school's career scoring list with 1,468 points. He's twice been a first-team All-Mid-Con selection and was the league tournament most valuable player last season.

If Tutt and Green both reach 2,000 points, they'll become the seventh set of teammates in Division I history to reach that milestone together.

Sutton said the duo's and team's success in recent years has been due to unselfishness.

``These guys came in as freshmen and had such unbelievable seasons, but they've always been great teammates. They've never got the big head,'' Sutton said. ``They've never gotten so cocky that they were bad teammates.

``At the same time, moreso when they were younger, the older teammates accepted the fact that these guys were special players. There was no jealousy ever involved. That allowed us to have tremendous chemistry on our teams the last three years.''

Green and Tutt say they enjoy sharing the court with each other.

``He's a guard and he can shoot it, and I try to be a dominating presence inside,'' Green said. ``He relieves a lot of pressure off me. It's not hard to mesh with guys like that, especially when they play hard. He's a determined spirit. He wants to win. He's a competitor.''

Tutt returns the compliment.

``I was fortunate to come in with a guy like Caleb. That took some of the pressure off of me.

``He's such a fun guy to play with. Every game he's smiling. He's having the best time of his life.''