Wisconsin Ogg Sighting Confirmed

The Heat's former center and cult hero resurfaces in Milwaukee, bucking for a permanent home

You are seven feet, two inches tall. You own two dozen pairs of size eighteen high-top sneakers. You are painfully addicted to The Andy Griffith Show. Where are you?

If your name is Alan Ogg A and it would almost have to be A you are in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, watching snow drift down outside your room at the Hyatt and trying to figure out how to earn a spot on the Bucks' permanent roster.

When last we left Ogg in November, the Heat's former reserve center, expert benchwarmer, and certifiable cult hero was the final cut, let go by Miami's shortsighted coaching staff in favor of the equally tall, but nowhere near as endearing, rookie center, Matt Geiger.

"After the cut there were five or six teams interested in signing me," Ogg says by telephone in an exclusive New Times interview. "But no one wanted to make a move. So I told my agent, let's wait until after the Christmas holiday and then look overseas. I was all ready to head over to Italy or Spain. My agent had made a deal over there somewhere. Then the Bucks called."

Actually, back in December the Detroit Pistons had tapped the third-year player, a graduate of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, for a tryout. With former Heat coach Ron Rothstein at the helm, Ogg says he felt confident he could have unpacked his bags in the Motor City. That was before he met with the Piston's cardiologist. "He flunked me on the physical," Ogg cheerfully admits. "I have mitrovalve prolapse, a heart irregularity. It's not serious. I've known about it my whole career. But I guess the doctor wanted to cover himself. I don't blame him, really, because it kind of hit him in the face. I walked in and said, here's my EKG. And he could see that it was all messed up."

The Bucks signed Ogg to a ten-day free-agent contract on January 10, after waiving forward Anthony Pullard. They are paying Ogg the NBA minimum salary of $140,000, prorated for as long as he stays with the team A or about $850 per diem. "We saw Ogg in preseason and thought he had improved," Bucks head coach Mike Dunleavy explained to reporters. "He can rebound and block shots. This is a chance for us to take some looks. Sometimes you strike gold."

Ogg's on-court debut with the Bucks this past Tuesday didn't exactly scream EUREKA! But he did show flashes of the player Miamians came to worship. In eleven minutes of mop-up duty, he missed one shot, sank two free throws, picked up three fouls, and stormed the boards for four rebounds to lead the Bucks to their fourth straight defeat, a 121-98 drubbing at the hands of the hapless Washington Bullets.

"We pretty much had lost the game by the time they put me in," Ogg says. "But at least I got to get in and run some plays with the guys. I got four rebounds A and that's, what, sixteen if I were playing the whole game? So that shows them something."

Two days later, against the Spurs, the NBA's only big man with an undergraduate degree in philosophy was granted the opportunity to contemplate his fate from the bench. He did not play.

Ogg's immediate aim is to win another ten-day contract with the Bucks, a re-signing that would leave him poised for a much-anticipated return to Miami when Milwaukee visits the Arena January 28. Since cutting Ogg, the Heat have plummeted from playoff contenders to basement dwellers. Could this be the big man's long-awaited chance to show Heat management what a colossal mistake they made in cutting him loose? A chance to execute his patented Rocky the Flying Squirrel Thunderdunk over pretty boy Rony Seikaly?

"Well, sort of," Ogg says. "Actually, it would be really nice to see some friends and enjoy the weather. It's been snowing here. Eight inches while we were away, and they're expecting four more tonight. Luckily, there's a mall connected to the hotel, so I don't really have to go out."

Though he misses his newlywed wife, Nita, who is back in Birmingham, Ogg hopes to sign on with the Bucks for the rest of the year. Next season he plans to expand his horizons. "I'll probably head overseas," says the spindly shot-block specialist. "I'd be more of a star in Europe and I'd definitely make more money. What I'll do is get a guaranteed contract over there so I can say to an NBA team: 'Here's what I've got. If you want me here, give me something worth staying for.' I'm not going to fool around with hanging around and getting cut the last day, like what happened with Miami."

But inside, Ogg confides, he dreads the prospect of leaving his native land. "It'd be nice to stay in the states, because you can watch Andy Griffith. I don't think you can get that show in Spain or Italy," says the Opie fanatic, sounding genuinely unnerved.

Not to worry, faithful Oggophiles. No matter where the NBA's tallest export lands, he is bound to carve his own special niche. "Ogg," after all, is an international language.

 
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