Online exclusive: Vikings’ Odum comes into his own on the court, at the piano

[Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on and is republished here in its entirety]

Junior Guard Charles Odum appears to be on his way to being one of the premier guards in the Big Sky Conference during his first year as a Viking.

[Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on and is republished here in its entirety]

Junior Guard Charles Odum appears to be on his way to being one of the premier guards in the Big Sky Conference during his first year as a Viking. After 20 games, he is shooting .547 from the field, a team leading .478 on three-pointers and is the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 14.4 points per game. Head coach Tyler Geving‘s only regret is that he wasn’t able to lure him to Portland State until his junior year.

Geving recruited Odum out of Mayfair High School in the Los Angeles suburb of Lakewood, where he was a teammate of former Viking Wendell Wright.

Out of high school though, Odum had caught the attention of such schools as Kansas State, Pepperdine and UNLV, so the competition for his court talents might have been fierce.

He began attracting that attention when Slam Magazine carried a feature on him during his junior summer playing on an AAU team.

One problem:  “My grades weren’t good enough,” Odum said. That was probably at least partially caused by his singular focus on basketball.

So, off he went to the College of Southern Idaho (CSI) in Twin Falls where he earned second team All-Region 18 honors as a sophomore and developed some balance between his passion for basketball and respect for academics.

“Education isn’t a game. It’s not something to take lightly because it’s important to your success after college,” said Odum, who’d like to have his own radio show or do something where he can travel and “meet as many people as possible and help them. I just like people.”

As his two-year community college career was ending, he once again drew attention from such schools as Oklahoma, Kent State and Ohio University, but he wanted “to go somewhere I was needed.”

With only two years left of college ball, he didn’t want to sit on the bench somewhere awaiting an opportunity. When he came to the PSU campus and the Viking’s rebuilding efforts following two years making the NCAA tournament and a coaching change, “they really made me feel needed.”

Geving had been following Odum since his high school days. He was attracted by Odum’s “ability to score, to get to the rim. He’s a strong, aggressive player and a scorer. He’s a competitor.”

Yes, agreed Odum, he loves to compete, a feeling that goes all the way back to when he was five years old. That’s when he began his interest in basketball.

“I would wad up paper balls and toss them at the waste basket,” said Odum, adding that he’d been watching Michael Jordan play on television. Jordan “made basketball look like fun. Also he obviously wanted to win.” And, already at the age of five, Odum wanted to win.

He is from an athletic family. Dad (Frank) played soccer and mom (Mercey) played basketball—mostly just for fun (He’s very proud of his sister Cynthia, who is studying fashion merchandising at Cal State Bakersfield). So, when Odum showed interest in basketball, they were very supportive.

“There was a lot of encouragement when I started playing…a lot of encouragement and enthusiasm. My dad came to all my games. They’re why I play. I’ve appreciated all the support they gave me,” he said.

Since his grade school didn’t have basketball until the fifth grade, Odum started playing on a second grade YMCA team, joining his school team as he got older.

By the time he was 13, he’d reached 6-feet and “I thought, oh boy, I’m going to be 6’5″ or 6’6″… didn’t happen.” By that time, though, he’d established a strong work ethic.

“I wanted to win and that probably made me work harder than a lot of other kids. I wanted to win really badly,” he said glossing over the talent he possessed for the game (he’s very self-effacing, considers himself the ultimate “team player” and, “if I’m successful I don’t want that to change the way I treat other people. I just want to be one of the guys.”).

His ambitions got a boost when he saw a video of a high school teammate at St. John Bosco, where he played his first two years in high school, competing during a summer program with some of the nation’s top players.

“I can do that, I thought. They didn’t just get there; they worked hard to get there.  I can get there, too, if I work hard,” Odum said. So he redoubled his efforts.

“I spent hours and hours in the gym.  I didn’t want to go home.  And when I went home, I had a basketball hoop there. I worked all the time,” he recalled.  That was the summer of the Slam Magazine article.  If possible, that made him work even harder.

He had a break-out summer between his junior and senior years playing AAU ball, probably resulting from his singular attention to honing his skills, and had a terrific senior season at Mayfair High School where he transferred following his sophomore year.

As a senior, he was named Suburban League Most Valuable Player and second team All-California Interscholastic Federation, averaging 23.7 points, seven rebounds, 4.7 steals and 4.7 assists per game. He earned Lakewood High School Player of the Year and was inducted into the Lakewood Hall of Fame.

He tried other sports in grade school (“I didn’t like football practice”), but was a single-sport athlete by the time he reached high school.

There are a number of things which attract Odum to the sport, but he particularly likes the interaction on the floor with his teammates and the closeness of the crowd.

“I love competing with my teammates. It’s thrilling seeing them work to win a game,” he said.

Odum feeds off the energy generated by teammates and the fans.

“When you steal the ball, there’s energy from the crowd, then on the fast break, you feel the energy and the crowd explodes at the finish. It’s that explosion from the crowd… and it doesn’t have to be for me… I love it when it’s for my teammates,” he said.

A moment like that can be a game changer, said Odum. “The crowd explosion can change everything.  Maybe you’re not having a great game, then you make a shot, the crowd explodes and it changes the rest of the game.”   

As Odum has matured, his life has become more complicated and there are things which surprise.

Used to the activity of a metropolitan area, he found Twin Falls, Idaho a bit stifling. He didn’t have much to do, so he taught himself to play the piano (current favorite: Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata)…and people who have heard him say he’s pretty good, even though he plays entirely by ear and doesn’t read music.

It was like seeing a whole different side of life.

“It’s like talking to God (he describes himself as a “very, very religious person”). When I sat down, I didn’t know where the sound was coming from. It was like it was coming from God.” Like basketball, he can lose himself for hours at the piano.

While no one has suggested that he quit his day job to follow the musician’s life, he’s made quite an impression at Portland State on the basketball floor.

“He’s exceeded our expectations. I thought he’d be good as a senior. He’s come into his own as a junior. I couldn’t ask for more,” said Geving.