News From Terre Haute, Indiana

From the Press Box

February 16, 2011

Odum shouldn’t be overlooked as MVC’s Freshman of Year

TERRE HAUTE — The cliché would state that Creighton forward Doug McDermott has taken the Missouri Valley Conference by storm from day one. The truth is that McDermott had the attention of MVC observers long before day one.

McDermott was a heralded recruit signed by Northern Iowa out of Ames, Iowa. When his dad — then-Iowa State coach Greg McDermott — took the Creighton job in April 2010, the younger McDermott was quickly given his release by the Panthers and followed his dad to become a Bluejay.

His move was cause for celebration in Omaha and consternation in Cedar Falls. It was one of the biggest stories of the MVC offseason.

By contrast, Indiana State point guard Jake Odum came to his hometown school quietly, and by the standards of observers around the league, anonymously.

Not highly recruited at Terre Haute South, Odum wasn’t offered a scholarship by the Sycamores as he was originally invited to be a walk-on. ISU later upped the ante and gave Odum a scholarship when interest in Odum began to increase during an excellent senior season at South.Odum then sat out his true freshman year as a redshirt. There was no hype, no controversy. To the rest of the league, Odum was out of sight, out of mind.

Since then, both players have dazzled throughout the MVC season, but one could be forgiven if they have a sense of deja vu when it comes to Odum’s perception around the league.

McDermott, who received playing time from day one, was excellent right out of the gate. McDermott took five MVC Newcomer of the Week awards out of the first seven that were given — and deserved them all.

Meanwhile, Odum’s start was slower. This was by design as ISU coach Greg Lansing eased him into action. With Dwayne Lathan and Jake Kelly being the early focus of ISU’s offense, Odum didn’t have the chance to dazzle league observers with statistics in the same way McDermott could.

Because of McDermott’s head start in playing time, excellent play and multitude of honors, it seems most MVC observers have taken it as gospel that McDermott’s Freshman of the Year Award is already a foregone conclusion.

And that’s a shame. Not because McDermott doesn’t deserve the award — he does — but because Odum merits equal consideration for it. Based on the MVC portion of the season, the facts in Odum’s corner are just as compelling as those in McDermott’s.

And when it comes to league honors, shouldn’t the MVC portion of the season be the only thing that matters? Who cares what McDermott did against Kennesaw State or what Odum did against Oakland City?

But I don’t get the sense in reading the MVC tea leaves that Odum is going to get equal consideration for the honor, or really, anything close to it.

This is despite the fact that both players are very even when it comes to their rankings in the MVC-only statistics. To wit:

n Both players lead a major statistical category. Odum leads in steals at 2.2 per game. McDermott leads in rebounding at 8.9. Full disclosure: McDermott also leads in offensive and defensive rebounding, but I consider leadership in those categories kind of redundant considering he’s the overall rebounding leader.

n Both players are ranked in the top 10 of two categories the other isn’t ranked in. Odum is second in the league at 4.9 assists and third in assist-to-turnover ratio with 2.2 assists for every turnover. McDermott is fourth in scoring at 15.6 points and ninth in field goal percentage at 50.6 percent.

That’s the statistical evidence, which is very even, but it goes beyond that. Odum’s role with his team is different than McDermott’s is with his.

The point guard position is the most important on the floor. Odum has had the pressure of being the team leader and the decision-maker throughout his first MVC season. Most freshman point guards struggle, Odum has thrived and become the unquestioned team leader.

It’s a responsibility Odum has that McDermott hasn’t had. Partly because McDermott’s a forward, but also because he has an excellent point guard teammate in Antoine Young, who’s presence has helped McDermott thrive.

“Even if the other freshman are in the conversation, Jake should be highly considered for Freshman of the Year. I think the world of Doug McDermott, who’s probably going to win it, and Rayvonte Rice at Drake is an awfully good player, along with other freshmen in the league. The impact that Jake Odum has had as far as our team … there’s no one who’s been more important,” Lansing said.

Odum’s contributions have helped ISU exceed league expectations as the Sycamores currently sit in a tie with UNI for third place in the conference. ISU was picked seventh in the preseason poll.

The Sycamores (9-6 MVC) are also a game ahead of Creighton (8-7).

In writing this, I’m not saying McDermott doesn’t deserve the Freshman of the Year Award. Since I cannot vote for ISU players, he’s a cinch to get my vote. He’s fantastic.

But when the time comes for the rest of the league to vote, observers should think before deciding which name to write down, because it’s not as automatic as perception would lead one to believe.

Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or todd.golden@tribstar.com. Please check out Golden’s Down In The Valley blog at blogs.tribstar.com/

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