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Former Ohio State basketball player Mark Titus grapples with young writing career

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Former Ohio State men’s basketball player Mark Titus read excerpts from his book, “Don’t Put Me in Coach,” July 11 as part of Thurber House’s Summer Literary picnic series. A crowd of more than 100 dined on boxed, gourmet dinners and poured glasses of wine while laughing as Titus entertained them with some of his favorite passages from the 257-page publication.

Walking the ornate halls of the Victorian-style building, a non-profit literary center on Jefferson Avenue in Columbus, Titus gazed at pictures of famed authors who have also spoken there through the years.

Titus said it was immediately evident to him that his signed photograph did not belong in the company of those commemorating other accomplished writers’ appearances at Thurber House.

“I was like, ‘I’m going to be up there with these guys? That’s crazy,'” Titus told The Lantern after his book signing that evening.

The idea that Titus’ name doesn’t belong amongst other respected writers, particularly sports writers, may only be taken as factual by Titus himself.

His first writings came via his personal blog clubtrillion.com where, as the header on the site suggests, he shared his life views from the end of the OSU’s men’s basketball bench. Titus was a member of the team from 2006-2010 and accumulated nine career points in his time under Buckeyes coach Thad Matta.

The blog, at times satirical, captured the players’ approach to his role in the OSU squad, as did “Don’t Put Me in Coach,” a collection of personal, and mostly hilarious, recollections from the player-turned-author’s time as a student-athlete.

Titus has also gained fame as a freelance writer for Grantland.com. One of his contributions – a column entitled “The Era of the Super-Conference” – was even selected for the second edition of Grantland’s hardbound quarterly edition.

Editors from Grantland.com did not respond to The Lantern‘s request for comment regarding Titus, but it seems even attracting the attention of the higher-ups of that ESPN offshoot website isn’t enough to make Titus feel accepted as an author.

Titus said he doesn’t understand what attracts Grantland editors, including Bill Simmons, author of the No. 1 New York Times best-selling book, “The Book of Basketball,” to want him in the mix.

“I don’t know, I think it’s that I have the personality,” he said. “I like to try to look at stuff from a different angle. My goal when I write is to be funny first and then, maybe second, is to provide analysis. So, I don’t know, maybe it’s that. I still don’t get it.”

Clark Kellogg, also a former Buckeyes basketball player (1979-82) and an athlete-turned journalist, attended Titus’ reading at Thurber House and told The Lantern afterward that he is familiar with his fellow Buckeye’s Grantland pieces.

In particular, Kellogg praised a Titus column titled “Oden on Oden,” a piece about former OSU center and No. 1-overall draft choice of the Portland Trailblazers, Greg Oden.

Kellogg said that work helped change the public perception of Oden, whose NBA career fell well short of expectations due to multiple injuries.

“I did read the Oden column and it was phenomenal,” said Kellogg, a television broadcaster since 1987. “There’s no doubt that Mark has made a successful transition into the field of writing. Obviously, if you’re looking at it in terms of a career, he’s probably in the first quarter of it, or first eighth of it.

“He’s a storyteller. He’s got great humor as a writer.”

To Kellogg’s praise, Titus responded by calling himself a “peon” at Grantland, a “nobody.” He agrees he helped change the narrative of Oden’s story but only because the former teammates, members of OSU’s 2007 NCAA runner-up team, have stayed in touch.

After describing doubt in writing “Oden on Oden,” Titus said, “I think the only reason it turned out well was because I know Greg.”

Titus’ self-analysis as a writer may have bordered on self-deprecation as he spoke of the guilt he feels because, as he said, “deep down, I know I’m not a good writer.”

“There’s people on blogs that nobody knows and I’ll read their stuff and be like, “God, this is good writing,” Titus said. “Why do I have so many more (Twitter) followers than this guy?’

As with any piece of Titus’ writing you might consume or a conversation you might have with the man, the harshness of his self-criticism is laced with humor.

“I’m afraid to take (writing seriously),” he said. “That’s been my thing – I didn’t take the benchwarmer thing seriously. I’m just this guy that doesn’t care.”

With writing, though, Titus said he may start make the transition to the field as a professional calling – maybe.

“Maybe I should embrace this,” he said. “Maybe I should have fun with it.”
 

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