Nov. 10, 2013
By Jerome Boettcher | Subscribe to Commodore Nation
Rod Odom has no qualms admitting he was once a homebody.
He enjoyed staying in and hanging out with family at their home in Central Islip, N.Y.
"I always spent my time at home," he said. "I wasn't big into going out."
Just before he turned 15, though, Odom was pushed outside of his comfort zone.
He packed up for boarding school. Reluctant at first, Odom, the oldest of three, decided he couldn't pass on the chance to further his educational and basketball opportunities.
So he traveled nearly 250 miles north to Middlesex School in Concord, Mass.
"It was definitely a big change for me," said Odom, who also spent a year on Middlesex's crew team. "The opportunity was so great I had to take it even though I wasn't particularly excited about leaving home."
Looking back, Odom says his experience at Middlesex propelled him to his current situation--a confident senior leader for the Vanderbilt men's basketball team.
Homesickness, juggling a tougher workload in class and on the basketball court, balancing new freedoms--Odom greeted those challenges four years sooner than most.
"It definitely helped me grow up a lot faster," said Odom, an economics major. "I had some growing pains out there that I probably would have experienced (at Vanderbilt) if I hadn't had that opportunity. It definitely helped me learn to communicate with people better and express myself better and really manage my time and be a more overall responsible person. It definitely helped me get some of the problems I would have faced here out of the way before I got here."
Since leaving for Middlesex in 2006, Odom hasn't spent more than two months back home in Central Islip on Long Island. Thus, his family makes sure they get to him.
Every other home game either his mom, dad or aunt is in attendance at Memorial Gymnasium. Plus, he has a cousin who lives in Nashville and doesn't miss a game.
His brother, Brandon, 17, and sister, Ariona, 15, also play basketball. Even with busy work schedules, Rod's parents make sure they manage their time in order to support their children--all of them.
"They have to rotate off of them to make sure somebody is at everybody's game. I'm glad I'm included in that still," he said. "It means a lot. It is not an easy trip--not a cheap trip. The fact they put that much effort in to come see me play means a lot. I try to give them something to watch, something to look forward to."
While his time back home is limited, his chances to travel the world have increased.
The summer before his first year at Middlesex, he travelled with his aunt and cousin to Egypt. In August, he ventured out of the country once again. The entire men's basketball team went on a 10-day, four-game trip to Greece and Italy.
Odom said highlights of the excursion were staying overnight on a beach in Greece, seeing the Roman Coliseum and visiting Pompeii.
"It was definitely once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Odom said. "Most of us would not have had that opportunity if it wasn't for the university so we were real thankful for that. We just tried to experience as much as possible while also trying to get better."
Heading into his final college season, which begins Nov. 12 against Georgia State, he has played in all 103 games of his career. He enters as the team's top returning scorer, averaging 10.4 points last year.
One of two seniors, along with point guard Kyle Fuller, the 6-foot-9, 212-pound Odom will be relied upon to lead a squad with just nine scholarship players. He welcomes the leadership role; one he was thrust into last year after the Commodores lost their top six scorers from the year before.
Not to mention the 22-year-old can pull from his experiences over the past seven years while away from home.
"I've always been a pretty outspoken guy," Odom said. "Guys on the team know that. I feel like guys on the team respect me. I think that is why I was put into that (leadership) position. I just stepped into it. I've never had a problem with it. I've been in it before. Some guys shy away from it. But that's not really outside of my comfort zone. I try to embrace it."