The talented Mr. Odum

Charles Odum sees many similarities between playing basketball and creating art.

Charles Odum sees many similarities between playing basketball and creating art.

“Players like Derrick Rose and John Wall—the way they move, the way they play is art,” Odum said. “Basketball is a way you can show yourself. There are so many things you can do in different situations, and what decisions you make is your art.”

In his first year at Portland State since transferring from the College of Southern Idaho, Odum isn’t having much trouble expressing himself on the court. The junior guard leads the Vikings in scoring average (14.3 points), overall shooting (.529) and three-point shooting (.456), all while putting up 3.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

However, the basketball court isn’t the only place Odum chooses to explore his artistic nature. He likes to draw in his spare time, and his favorite things to sketch are portraits, specifically a person’s eyes.

“You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their eyes,” Odum said. “People express so much emotion just through their eyes.”

As Odum discusses his sketches, his own eyes light up with enthusiasm and it becomes clear that viewing the world through an artistic lens is part of what makes him happy. He enjoys exploring the world and the people in it and describes himself as a “left-brained” individual.

“I love looking at a painting, or listening to a song, and breaking it down,” he says. “And trying to figure out what the artist was seeing, what [inspired] them to create that.”

Odum derives his own inspiration from his family and says it’s something he “takes pride in.” His father, who works in the metal distribution industry, and his mother, a nurse, have been married for over 20 years. Odum’s sister, with whom he talks almost every day, is a senior at Cal State Bakersfield.

Although his parents have worked hard to provide a stable life for their family, things weren’t always so easy. Growing up near Los Angeles, Calif., Odum remembers bouncing around a lot, moving from Long Beach to Lakewood, and jumping in and out of a few different schools as his parents struggled to make ends meet. Since he was a boy, Odum found his escape through basketball and when he got into high school, he started to stand out from the other kids.

Despite drawing interest from scouts across the nation, Odum said his poor grades made him academically ineligible for Division-I ball, so he eventually found his way to the College of Southern Idaho, a small junior college in Twin Falls. There, success came to him on the basketball court like it had in the past, but Odum found himself struggling outside of the gym. The move from life in the big city to rural Idaho was a tough adjustment, and he thought about quitting.

“I was homesick, but I didn’t want to just run back home,” he recalled. “I knew I came out [there] for a reason, to grow up, to have to deal with things by myself, so I ended up staying.”

Odum calls Idaho the “toughest years of his life” but says the decision to stick it out was what helped “make him a man.”

“I wanted to learn the importance of education by myself,” he said. “I felt if I went back to a school at home then I’d always have my mom whispering in my ear to do my homework. I wanted to learn to motivate myself.”

After getting things turned around and achieving All-Region 18 honors as a sophomore, Odum was recruited by schools all over the country, including Ohio University, Creighton, San Diego, UC Riverside and TCU. But once he visited Portland State, he knew he’d found his new home.

“When I came to Portland State, the shoe fit,” Odum said. “It was just my style of shoe.”

Today, Odum enjoys life around the South Park Blocks. Aside from the weather, he loves the fact that the city is busy, full of culture and there are plenty of new people to meet. When he’s not in the gym or in class, he’s often in Lincoln Hall “messing around” on the piano, something he started doing his freshman year at Idaho. Although he’s never taken lessons, he says playing the piano just “feels natural.”

“I always wanted to play the piano ever since I was a little kid,” Odum said. “Any time I get a chance to be at a piano, I’m going to play.”

The ability to take the mind away from the stresses of the world and the way music is soothing and relaxing is what Odum enjoys most about the piano.

“I can speak my thoughts and emotions through the keys of the piano,” he said.

After basketball, Odum plans to finish his degree in communication studies and then venture out into the world. He hopes to play professionally, possibly overseas if he has the opportunity, and says he will “take basketball as far is allows him to go.”

Odum understands there is a whole world away from the basketball court, and also dreams of having his own television show someday. He says it could be called “Real Talk with Charles Odum,” and that he would “travel the world and just meet everyone.”

“I just like talking,” he explained. “Not just meeting people, but trying to understand why one person is different from the next. That’s why I really like talking to people; I like seeing each person’s ID, what makes each person the way they are.”

The idea of starting his own business or getting into real estate is also appealing, but the real goal would be to make money so he could someday start a charity foundation.

“I just want to show people that there’s nothing wrong with giving another person a hug,” Odum said. ” I just want to go out into the world and help as many people as I can.”

When asked what makes him the most proud in his life, he didn’t hesitate to respond.

“I’m proud that I’m able to be me,” he said. “I want people to remember me for Charles. They might think I’m weird, strange or different, but that’s just how [Charles] is. I thank God that I can be myself in any situation.” ?