Connor Odom, the son of UMBC men’s basketball head coach Ryan Odom, has joined the Maryland men’s basketball program as a preferred walk-on, and he is looking forward to playing close to home after battling health issues for much of his life.
As a walk-on, Odom likely won’t see much playing time, but he said that his job is to help his teammates by mimicking opponents as part of the scout team and letting his fellow Terps see what they will face on the court.
“My role as a walk-on is more just to help the guys that are actually going to be playing significant minutes,” Odom said on Glenn Clark Radio July 22. “Basically, I’ll run the other team’s plays in practice and just try to get them prepared for the game.”
The Annapolis, Md., resident could have gone to UMBC to play for his father, but he said that Maryland was a better fit — and having his dad as his head coach might not have been the best thing for him.
“I’m not sure that it would have been the right fit just because me and him butt heads over basketball,” Odom joked. “He’s pretty relaxed when I play. He doesn’t yell at my games or anything, but I just don’t know if it would have been the right fit for us.”
Odom might have gotten more minutes had he not chosen a Big Ten program, but he said that Maryland stood out to him as soon as he stepped on the campus.
“They showed me around the school, and I saw it and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ I just kind of fell in love with it,” Odom said, adding, “Coach Turgeon’s a great coach, and obviously, Maryland’s a great program, so I really thought that it was kind of hard to pass that up.”
The 5-foot-11, 155-pound guard played his senior year at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Md., and he played at Oak Hill Academy before that. Odom has had limited opportunities to prove himself on the court because of his health; he’s battled Lyme disease and mental health difficulties throughout his life.
“I’ve had a lot of illnesses throughout my high school career, so the only year I really got to play was my junior year at Oak Hill because last year at Spalding, I was sick the whole year with Lyme disease,” Odom said.
Basketball runs in the Odom family. Connor’s grandfather, Dave Odom, was the head coach at East Carolina (1979-1982), Wake Forest (1989-2001) and South Carolina (2001-2008). His father, Ryan, was a second-year head coach at UMBC when the No. 16 seed Retrievers upset No. 1 seed Virginia in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
Connor Odom said he sees coaching in his future as well.
“I want to be a college basketball coach when I get older,” Odom said. “… I’m not going to say I have leadership tendencies just because I didn’t really have an opportunity to show that I could be a leader because I, frankly, wasn’t playing because of my illnesses.”
When he wasn’t playing, Odom was trying to learn the game and help his teammates out whenever he could. With that mindset, he thinks he can contribute to the Maryland men’s basketball program.
“I feel like I know the game and I can see it,” Odom said. “Sometimes when I wasn’t playing and when I wasn’t dressed out to the games or anything, I could help the other guys that were playing by just showing them some things that I saw from the bench.”
Odom got support from some of the players his father was coaching in recent years as he was battling health difficulties. UMBC forward Arkel Lamar was Odom’s best friend on the team.
“I was there on his visit and ever since then, we just kind of clicked,” Odom said. “… He’s my guy and he’s really helped me with my game — taught me to be calm on the court and just shown me some things that he sees playing pick-up with me.”
Even though Odom lost a lot of weight during his illness, he’s feeling better now. He has to take several medications and take some precautions, but he hopes to bulk up before he gets to Maryland.
His ordeal with Lyme disease has been physically taxing, but Odom said he felt a larger toll on his state of mind. He’s grateful that people reached out to him to check in and keep him going in the right direction.
“Not a lot of people really know the ramifications of what Lyme disease can really do. It didn’t cause me to feel physically sick. I felt a little bit tired, but it caused me to be mentally sick. I had really bad anxiety and OCD, and it was good that they would reach out. They just helped me [to feel] a little bit better about myself just because I was really struggling.”
For more from Odom, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Connor Odom