Keith Oddo (’15), a star guard on the Raiders basketball team, does not play just to make friends, as he maintains a high level of intensity on the court at all times.
“Off the court I like him; he is funny,” said Jordan Lowery (’16), who has played with Oddo in the backcourt for three years. “On the court he is a totally different guy, but he should be that way because he is one of our better players. He takes control.”
Head Coach Ed Green, who has coached Oddo for two years, sees Oddo, as the old saying goes, leaving it all on the court on a consistent basis.
“Keith is an emotional player,” he said. “He comes to play every day and when he plays in the basketball game he plays 100 percent both offensively and defensively. It is a pleasure watching how he plays and how hard he plays.”
Oddo attributes his approach to a mix of adrenaline and a burning desire to win.
“When you get between the lines, a whole different person comes out,” he said. “It is more of a competitive edge and I just like to win so that is the main difference between me on and off the court.”
Oddo’s intensity bleeds into practice, where he and Green, who brings an equal level of energy to both practices and games, constantly chirp at one another. To an uninformed observer the scene may look like tense, but Green sees it as a normal relationship between him and one of his star players.
“I push Keith very hard,” he said. “He knows what I am going to do and he expects me to push him. It’s not personal; it’s never personal. I’m just trying to have him maximize his skills as a player.”
Oddo appreciates the efforts of both Green and his assistant coach Gerald Holmes.
“Coach Green and Coach Holmes have done a great job and both of them are very well qualified as coaches,” he said. “They have been a main part of our success this season.”
Oddo has improved in each of his four years as what Green calls a “combo guard,” meaning that he can play both point guard and shooting guard. He has bumped up his points per game each season of his career and has reached a personal high of 14.0 this year. Oddo attributes a good amount of this improvement to being pushed by tough competition.
“Playing against really good competition in the offseason has really helped me improve,” he said. “Playing against Thon Maker and playing against five top 100 players this summer has helped. Playing against that level of competition along with me getting stronger and physically developing has been really helpful.”
The most noticeable improvement in Oddo’s game this year has been an increase in his shooting percentage, as he is shooting 47 percent from the field this year compared to 40 percent for his career. Oddo sees a simple explanation to this statistical increase in efficiency.
“For the past three years I have been primarily a three-point shooter,” he said. “This year I have been working hard on my ball handling which makes getting to the rim a lot easier. The closer to the basket you shoot the higher percentage of them you are going to make and that is definitely the case with me.”
Oddo’s assertion is clearly backed up by the statistics, as his two-point field goal percentage is up to 54 percent, 12 points above his career average. His three point percentage is down to 34 percent, 5 percent below his career average, but he has already made 49 two point shots in 14 games, only five less than his total of 54 in 22 games last year.
While Oddo’s game is well rounded, averaging over 10 points, three assists, three rebounds and a steal per game in his four-year career, Lowery sees two clear strengths that have resonated for Oddo’s entire career.
“Keith’s strengths are shooting and passing,” Lowery said. “Keith has stayed pretty much the same. He could always shoot and he could always pass and he still can.”
Lowery and Oddo have made a dynamic duo over the last three years, sharing the point guard position while working together on the court. Oddo likes having Lowery at his side on the court.
“To start the game I play off the wing,” he said. “Jordan is a really good ball handler. It is really hard to press us because together we complement each other really well. When Jordan goes out of the game I go over to point guard. Next year I will definitely have to run point guard because of the size difference in college.”
As a man who complied a 260-83 overall record and went to the NCAA Tournament in eight of his 12 years as a coach at Roanoke College, Green knows what it takes to succeed as a basketball player in college. When Oddo leaves Willis Hall to attend the University of Richmond as a recruited walk-on to the team, Green sees him facing challenges similar to most high school players transitioning to the college game.
“When you look at high school players and think about what they have to do collegiately almost every high school has to improve their defensive skills,” Green said. “They also have to work on their passing and be able to feed the post inside, making their teammates better players with their passing skills.”