News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 15, 2011

TODD GOLDEN: Accentuating the positive with ISU's Odum

Todd Golden
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — There’s something to be said for being your own worst critic, especially when it comes to sports.

After all, there’s an inexhaustible supply of athletes who delude themselves into believing they’re something better than they really are.

Every school has those players, including Indiana State. Many a day have I had of biting my lip as I listened to an overconfident athlete talk about something they knew they could do on the court or field, knowing full well there was a massive amount of evidence to the contrary of their confidence/delusion/bluster.

There’s no need to worry about self-delusion when it comes to ISU point guard Jake Odum. If anything, Odum takes being his own worst critic too far.

Many a time have I interviewed Odum after a game and he asked me why I wanted to talk to him because he played like … well, you know.

Even some ISU fans were wondering what’s up with Odum after he converted just 4 of 10 at the free throw line in ISU’s more labor intensive-than-expected 68-57 victory over Maryville last Saturday.

There’s a focus on Odum’s 64.2 percent free throw shooting, down nine percentage points from his freshman season. There should be considering a point guard is going to attempt more free throws.

Odum is worst percentage-wise at the line of the Sycamores who play regular minutes. (Despite that, ISU is 31st nationally in free throw percentage at 74.5 percent.)

Certainly, Odum’s free throw shooting needs to improve. As does his shooting in general. He’s down percentage-wise in field goal percentage (41.4 percent this year/47.7 percent last year) and 3-point shooting percentage (32.1 percent/20 percent). Turnovers per game (3.3) are also up from last season.

All of this feeds Odum’s natural predilection to be his own worst critic. ISU coach Greg Lansing noted after Saturday’s game that he thought Odum’s poor free throw shooting on Saturday was causing him to lose focus on the defensive end, an unwelcome side effect of beating oneself up when things aren’t going your way.

So perhaps its time to shine a light on what Odum is doing right for the Sycamores. The list is considerable and is can certainly serve as a counter-balance to what Odum isn’t doing as well.

As of this writing, Odum is averaging 6.6 assists per game, up from 4.1 during his freshman season. He ranked 10th nationally in the category and is first in the Missouri Valley Conference. Missouri State’s Michael Bizoukas is the only other MVC player within an assist of Odum on a per game basis.

Odum is also 36th nationally in steals at 2.3 per game, also good enough to lead the MVC. Odum averaged 1.8 steals last year.

Odum is 15th in the MVC in rebounds at 5.1 per game and is ISU’s co-leader overall. He is the only point guard in the MVC’s top 15 in boards. Odum averaged 3.9 rebounds last year.

Finally, Odum’s scoring is up just slightly to 9.4 points from 9.3 a year ago, despite the fact he’s shot the ball worse than he did a year ago.

He’s also one of just six Division I players to record a triple-double this season.

Odum’s done it all while playing through plantar fasciitis in his left foot for at least five of ISU’s nine games, by all accounts, a very painful condition. Plantar fasciitis prematurely ended the season of Creighton forward Ethan Wragge in 2010-11.

Few fans saw it, but during ISU’s trip to Orlando for the Old Spice Classic, Odum was often sprawled out on the training table immediately after the games, getting relief for the pain he was feeling in his foot. Rest is the only cure, but Odum has chosen to battle through it. He is, by no means, 100 percent healthy.

Odum’s value has never been completely about numbers anyway. He’s a chore for opposing teams on both ends given his uncanny court vision and unpredictability when it comes to taking the right gamble to make a play. The assist and steal numbers do justice to this, but not completely.

Certainly the expectations placed on Odum this season are far different than his freshman year. Last year at this point, Odum was on the boil, still an unknown quantity outside of ISU’s fanbase, but a secret weapon of sorts for the Sycamores. This year, he’s an all-conference first-teamer and isn’t sneaking up on anyone.

His status as one of the MVC’s elite players makes the light shined on him much harsher than it was a year ago. That’s what happens when a player elevates himself to league-best status. Can Odum play better? Sure.

But it’s a worth a reminder — perhaps to Odum himself most of all — that the sophomore point guard is still doing plenty of things right for the Sycamores.

Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.