DENHAM SPRINGS – To what lengths was Tori Odom willing to go in order to continue his basketball career once he graduated from Denham Springs two years ago?
Try a 2,500-mile trip to the Pacific Northwest in Seattle where Odom played his way onto the Everett Community College basketball team.
With the conclusion of his eligibility after his second season the clock began ticking on the future of Odom’s career when the 6-foot, point guard landed a late tryout and scholarship offer, recently signing with NAIA Cincinnati Christian University.
That meant another 850 miles to Cincinnati to continue his passion where Odom would have traveled than 3,200 miles since the finish of his high school career.
“I feel like if you want to experience different things for yourself then you’ve got to get out and explore,” Odom said. “By doing that it’s helped me out a lot. If I would have stayed home, I don’t think I would be doing anything. I wouldn’t be playing basketball. I’d probably be working.”
Odom embarked on his latest venture, leaving Thursday for Cincinnati Christian which provided a playing opportunity for Odom, who at one time appeared headed to Capilano University in British Columbia, Canada.
“They were the only offer after the season,” Odom said. “I was about to go there but something came up. They said I didn’t apply in time and couldn’t get into the school.”
Odom continued contacting schools who were looking for a tenacious point guard who didn’t mind getting his nose dirty on the defensive end of the court.
He found such a program in Cincinnati Christian where Odom noticed that the school’s basketball coach – Greg Miller – had been following him on Twitter.
Once Odom, on the advice of his junior college coach Mike Trautman, reciprocated and began following Miller. He received a text message asking Odom to contact Miller, who had taken an interest in him after watching his highlights on social media.
When Miller offered a scholarship, Odom jumped at the chance – sight unseen – after finding comfort in Miller’s approach and style of play.
“I had a good connection after talking with the coach,” Odom said. “His style of play is my style and that’s defense and playing at a fast paced. I just felt wanted there as well.”
Odom grew up playing a variety of sports in Denham Springs, ranging from basketball to football, soccer and baseball.
He said his all-out love affair with basketball began in the sixth and seventh grade, taking advantage of his own gifts to gain a level of success with the sport.
“When I was younger, I was quick and fast,” he said. “The game just came to me very easy. It’s like it was just meant for me and I loved it. I really enjoyed playing it.”
While in high school Odom was a two-sport athlete, playing both football and basketball. It was the latter in which he earned all-district and all-parish honors, but without any scholarship offers after his senior season, his basketball career appeared to be over.
“I had no opportunities in Louisiana or closer to home,” he said.
Months after he was through with his high school season, Odom had a cousin from the Seattle area visiting, prompting him to ask his relative for suggestions on schools in the vicinity of his hometown that he could talk to about playing basketball.
One such school was Everett Community College where upon traveling back to Seattle to visit cousin to visit his uncle, Odom contacted the school, secured a tryout and did enough to prompt a scholarship offer.
“He gave me an opportunity and I made the best of that opportunity,” Odom said of Trautman. “It was a perfect style for my game. They played a high pace and it was also about defense. He let me go out and play my game and everything else just fell into place.”
After playing in all 31 games as a freshman, averaging 10 points, shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 75.3 from the free throw line, Odom became a driving force for Everett which went on to a 22-8 record and 14-0 showing in conference play this past season.
Odom, who missed the team’s first 12 games – a span in which Everett went 6-6 – he returned to the team’s lineup with a vengeance. He led his team to a 16-2 record, averaging 12.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists, leading Everett (26-5) to the semifinals of the league's postseason tournament where they lost 96-94 in overtime.
During his career Odom, a first team all-league defensive selection and second team all-region choice, helped Everett to a 48-13 overall record, 27-1 mark in league play and consecutive regional championships.
“Tori is the type of player that will make winning plays down the stretch of games through his defensive pressure, steals, assists, and can really finish with either hand inside the paint,” Trautman said.
Odom shined brightly in that finale with 20 points – his third highest total of the season - and five rebounds but was uncertain whether he would play competitive basketball ever again.
“I took a big risk going out to Seattle,” he said. “I played my tail off, work hard on the court and in the classroom and got something out of it and I’m very thankful for that. Now I’m going to Cincinnati, I’m going with that same mindset. I’m going to get my schoolwork, get on the court and just be myself.”