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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 23, 2010

Blogging from the bench: Buckeyes’ Titus famous for NOT playing

AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mark Titus seldom even gets into a game for No. 21 Ohio State. Incredibly, that hasn’t kept him from becoming one of the most popular and famous college basketball players in the nation.

How many stars have a blog that has had more than 2.1 million visits? How many guys scoring 20 points a game have produced a video called “The Rainmaker” for NBA scouts that has gotten more than 115,000 hits on YouTube.com in the last week? How many future pros are cheered by opposing fans and players and have been lavishly profiled in The New York Times, on Yahoo.com and on ESPN’s SportsNation and First Take?
And that’s the point. Titus’ blog is about NOT being a superstar or being worshipped at the age of 20. It’s about losing, getting little or no respect, learning and having fun — sort of a microcosm of the college experience.
“There are so few stars, and that’s why they are stars,” Titus said after taking his lumps in Thursday’s practice. “There are only so many people who can win the national player of the year. But on every single team there are two or three guys that will never get in. And that’s true for every team at every level. Everyone at some point, it seems, has been a bench warmer. And they can identify with that.”
Titus named his blog “Club Trillion” because that’s a typical box-score line for a scrub: a 1 in the minute column, followed by nine zeros (for shots attempted and made, and so on). Now Club Trillion has actually become a brand, if you can believe it. More on that later.
It’s been a weird and wild ride for a kid who scored 1,000 points and was considered a high school star back in Brownsburg, Ind., a town of roughly 18,000 souls nestled in the middle of farm country in the basketball-crazy state.
Titus turned down a few scholarship offers and came to Ohio State because he wanted to be a part of a major university with big-time athletics. Not long after he came to campus in the autumn 2006, he offered to serve as a manager for the basketball team. After a week or so of filling up water bottles and picking up wet towels, he quit.
Within a week, he got a call back. Ohio State’s prized big-man recruit, Greg Oden, had an injured wrist and a couple of other players had hurt their ankles. The Buckeyes didn’t have 10 guys to even scrimmage. Would Titus consider being a walk-on?
He embraced the opportunity. When Oden, who would go on to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft after that season, and the others returned, he stuck around.
A few weeks in, he got the idea to write about being cannon fodder on the nation’s No. 1 team. He didn’t really know what a blog was, but he searched and started one. It was a way to inform his family and friends back home of what was going on with him, and it was a way to log some of what he was going through so he wouldn’t forget.
“When he first told me kind of what he was doing, I just said, ’Hey, use your head. Be smart,”’ said coach Thad Matta, who concedes he doesn’t read it closely but also concedes that maybe he should. “I haven’t heard anything otherwise.”
Titus wrote that he skipped several preseason conditioning workouts this fall and Matta and his staff were OK with it.
“They understood that because I’m paying my own way through college, it’s not a huge deal if I skip a few workouts so I can make some money bagging groceries at my neighborhood supermarket,” Titus wrote. “Sure I used the off time to go golfing and never actually did any grocery bagging, but the coaches don’t have to know that.”
One of the first times the public noticed Titus came after the Buckeyes capped a 35-4 season with an 84-75 loss to Florida in the 2007 national championship game after that freshman season. The team was welcomed home with several thousand people showing up at the arena.
Speculation was rampant that Oden, point guard Michael Conley and shooting forward Daequan Cook might skip to the NBA after their freshman seasons. When Oden was introduced, the crowd chanted, “ONE MORE YEAR!”
That prompted Titus to grab the microphone and say, “I heard the fans chanting ’one more year.’ I sat down with my family and just want to say that I’ll be back next year.”
The crowd went nuts. A legend was born — well, except for the basketball part. To date, he has played in 31 games and has scored nine points, his production (and playing time) falling off precipitously the past three seasons when he has combined for just four points in 17 games).
The blog has done much better, crossing the 2-million visitor mark recently. To celebrate, Titus and friend Andy Keller produced the 4-minute “Rainmaker” video in a couple of hours. It shows Titus bombing in jump shots from all over the court, deep in the stands and from near his accustomed spot on the bench, each time looking back at the camera with a sullen, “I told you I was unstoppable” look on his face.
Roughly a thousand more people watch the video every day, adding to Titus’ lore.
He’s done interviews with several major media outlets while Buckeyes star Evan Turner, who has had two triple-doubles and is averaging 18.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5 assists a game, has gone almost unnoticed.
After a recent game, Purdue star Robbie Hummel made a point of telling Titus — who hadn’t played in the game — what a big fan he is of the Club Trillion blog.
Another Big Ten scrub, Mike Bruesewitz of what Titus calls the Wisconsin “Buzzcuts,” got a mention in a recent blog.
“My high school coach texted me as soon as he saw it and said that getting a shout-out on Club Trillion is way cooler than ever playing on national TV,” a laughing Bruesewitz told Madison.com.
Titus talks about his role, his friends, the opponents and the opposing fans, while complaining about some of his own teammates. For instance, he grudgingly had to give up his basketball shoes to swingman William Buford so the starter could play at Purdue.
“He remembered to pack his ’Martin’ DVDs and his box of Fruit Gushers, but somehow couldn’t remember to pack his game shoes,” Titus said snarkily.
It’s not all jokes and jibes. He floated the idea of selling Club Trillion T-shirts but Ohio State’s compliance office said NCAA rules don’t allow athletes to make money off of their name or image. So he set it up so all profits go to the charity A Kid Again. To date, more than 1,300 shirts have been sold, raising more than $16,000 to better the lives of kids facing threatening illnesses and their families.
So what’s next for Titus?
Even though he has his fingers crossed when it comes to the NBA draft, that seems unlikely. The pros aren’t looking for many guys who score a point every three games.
Titus concedes his grades have fallen from a 3.8 GPA as a freshman to “around 3.0” this year. He tells his mom, a sixth-grade teacher, and dad, a principal, that it’s OK, that he doesn’t have a job promised after he graduates this spring, that the blog may lead him to big things. The marketing major plans to write a book. Beyond that, he doesn’t know.
“I haven’t really thought of an exit strategy with the blog,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know how it’s going to work out. As far as a career, I really don’t know what I want to do. I’ve thought about acting, or writing scripts, and I’ve thought about being a sports writer or something.
“I don’t really know. Just whatever comes up. Whatever seems like fun.”
On the Web:
Club Trillion: http://clubtrillion.blogspot.com/
A Kid Again: http://www.akidagain.org/