NCAA Rhode Island Oklahoma Basketball

Oklahoma's Rashard Odomes (1) has his shot blocked by Rhode Island's Stanford Robinson during the first half of an NCAA Tournament first-round game March 15 in Pittsburgh.

In February 2013, the Copperas Cove boys basketball team hosted Shoemaker in what was then District 8-5A play.

A district championship was on the line for the Grey Wolves while the Bulldawgs needed a victory to advance to the playoffs.

The back-and-forth game went into double overtime. At the end of the second overtime, Shoemaker’s defense converged on Rashard Odomes, then only a sophomore at Cove.

With the defense closing in, Odomes found Montre’ Williams, who nailed a shot at the buzzer for the Bulldawgs to win 73-72.

“Everybody ran on the floor and you would have thought we won a championship game,” Odomes mother, Donna Stewart, said of her favorite memory of her son playing in royal blue and gold.

That game sticks out in Odomes’ high school memory as well, “It was just a good moment for Cove, in general, because we hadn’t been to the playoffs in so long.

“It was our first trip and it set the tone for the next years to come, so that’s probably the game that sticks out the most to me.”

Others, like head coach Billy White Jr., have different games that come to mind when thinking of what Odomes accomplished at Copperas Cove.

In January 2014, the Bulldawgs were facing Ellison in Killeen in the last quarter when Odomes and Williams both dove to recover a loose possession.

Cove scored for 57-55 lead with seconds left on the clock.

“Then Ellison came down and Rashard blocked the final shot for them to win the game,” White said. “It’s one of those deals where it was tough to beat Ellison anywhere, but it was tough to win at Ellison.”

Two years later, in 2016, Odomes was a freshman playing in the NCAA Tournament at Oklahoma. The Sooners advanced all the way to the Final Four before losing to eventual national champion Villanova.

“I wish I took it in more, just that experience,” Odomes of said his experience with a team that included national player of the year and current Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield.

This season, Odomes averaged 7.2 points while playing alongside another player of the year candidate in freshman phenom Trae Young. The Sooners returned to the NCAA Tournament, but fell to Rhode Island in the first round.

CAPTAIN ODOMES

At the start of the season, Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger named Odomes captain.

“It was a surprise, just because I was a junior,” Odomes said. “Getting that title, it’s nothing that I feel I can’t handle.

“Coach White prepared me for a role like that in high school. I feel like I’ve been a leader my whole life, so I feel like I can step up and do it.”

Although it’s been three years since Odomes last suited up for the Bulldawgs, his connection to White and his hometown hasn’t changed much.

“My DVR is full of Oklahoma games,” White said, “I just break down games like I broke down Copperas Cove games.

“I’ll give him a call or shoot him a text of a few things I see and he’ll do the same thing and ask me what I’m seeing, but it’s great.”

Odomes recorded a few career-high milestones this season with 29 points, 10 field goal, and 10 rebounds, all against Oklahoma State, which coincidentally was the game that stuck out above the rest for him this season.

Despite his success, whenever Odomes comes home, White continues to push him to continue to grow as a player.

“Every time I go back home I always reach out to him,” Odomes said. “I go by the school or run by his house real quick.

“He does try to make me work out or go run or something, but I’m not up for all that,” he said with a laugh as he thought back to the time White had him running on the treadmill in his garage when he came to visit. “He just wants the best from me.”

For Stewart, watching her son play can be summed up in one word — “Amazing.

“Every time I see him on television, I can’t believe that little kid that was running around in Pampers is now on television,” she said.

Growth as a player and a person is clear to those who know Odomes personally, as he has adjusted to being the captain of a team that has gained plenty of national attention this season.

“I’m extremely proud of him,” White said, “because all the interviews and everything he’s had to do, you can tell he’s really grown and matured into that leader role.”

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Odomes’ philosophy as a leader is to lead by example, both on and off the court.

“He took a lot from his teammates,” Stewart said. “He learned a lot from them and took a lot of input from his teammates as well.”

While Odomes has excelled on the court, he has also been named Academic All-Big 12.

After the Sooners were eliminated in the first round of the tournament this year, Odomes returned home for spring break, but it wasn’t all fun in the sun.

It may have been a break at Oklahoma, but he still had an assignment due during the week and Odomes had plans in Austin.

“He took his homework with him and completed his assignment while he was out in Austin with his friends,” Stewart said.

He may be up in Oklahoma for school, but Odomes still finds a way to connect with local high school players who aspire to follow his lead.

“I always reach out to the kids on the team, the young players that are coming up” he said. “I talk to different players from different schools just seeing how the district’s going. They always have questions for me and it just motivates them to see that it’s possible to actually do something like this.”

Stewart knows that her son is a role model, not just for those in his community but for the young men in his family back in Baltimore, Maryland.

“He’s setting an example for the younger members of the family,” she said.

“I still have a long way to go. I’m learning just as they are, so it’s always great to give them some feedback and help them out,” Odomes added.

The best advice he has to offer to those still in high school?

“Stay in the books, education first. Take care of your academics,” he said.

Stewart has a goal of her own for Odomes’ senior year, she plans to make it to every game — home and away.

GRAND FINALE

With one year left with the Sooners, Odomes biggest priority is making sure the entire team is on the same page working toward their goal.

“I feel like everyone is focused on team goals right now,” he said, “getting the program right and just making that run in the tournament.

“We’re just all trying to see the things that are going to help us work it out in the long run for the team.”

Odomes made a visit to White in his classroom at Copperas Cove when he was home for spring break and his coach gave him words of encouragement the only way he knows how.

“I told him, ‘Listen, man, this is the second time you’ve come to visit me on spring break,’” White recalled, “I love for you to come home, but I’d much rather watch you on TV go for March Madness.”

Before he left to finish his junior year and start preparing to lead his team once more, White prepared him just as he had when he was leading the Bulldawgs.

“It’s not just about you,” White told him. “You have to make sure everyone is moving toward that same goal.”

fcardenas@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7562

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