Summer workouts are all the rage in college and pro hoops. Through the lens of social media we have seen “Hoodie Melo,” Lamelo Ball in the Drew League, dozens of all-stars playing at Lifetime Fitness in New York, Grant Golden balling against James Harden and so many others. The off-season is an opportunity for foes to team up, former teammates to reunite and players to see competition in a different way than they would otherwise. Beneficial for the players from a basketball standpoint, it can also provide sentimental value to us fans.
2019-2020 was a special season for Richmond basketball, and this 2020-2021 team has the potential to be one of the best ever. But is it wrong to live in the past a bit? Last week, a former walk-on helped Spider nation do just that.
If you follow Twitter closely (are you a basketball fan?), you may have seen the newly anointed Coach Keith Oddo putting some of his fellow Spider alumni through a plethora of workouts last week. Oddo was joined by TJ Cline, Khwan Fore and current Spider Nick Sherod at a gym in Richmond. It is common for old teammates to return to their former college towns to workout with each other, but last week was different for Oddo. The rest of the crew were working on their skills, but he was working on his mind.
Pursuing a career in coaching, Oddo turned a planned meet up with Fore into a chance to better his ability. “We planned on just coming together, catching up, hanging out. While we were there, you know, me and TJ were going to work out anyway, and then Keith told us about this job offer and some plans in the near future, so we were like, ‘Yo give us a workout,’” Fore said, fresh off of his first professional season in Europe. Fore is fielding various professional contract offers from several European teams, waiting to see where he will end up next year.
Oddo took the three through various drills, tasked with finding a way to effectively improve each’s game. Depending on how long you have followed the team, you likely know Sherod, Cline and Fore have wide ranging skill sets. Sherod is a lethal sharpshooter who can go back to the basket; Fore is an athletic guard with great handles that can drive the lane and facilitate; Cline is a skilled, versatile big man who can playmake at the top of the key, shoot and score in the post. “At first, it was a big challenge to incorporate drills that all three of them could work on their skill sets. For a couple days there I was just really thinking of stuff that all three of them could do, and we had a great work out,” Oddo said. His coaching mindset was abundantly clear, giving me a breakdown of each player far more eloquent than my own.
Player-coach dynamics can make or break any team or group. For Oddo, this workout was a unique situation in that aspect. The three guys all respect him and know his work ethic, however it takes effort to think of someone who has been your peer for so long as a teacher or coach. “It was a unique perspective for me because they have been my teammates for so many years, and now I got to coach them. At first, I’m not going to lie, I was really looking forward to it, but also a smidge nervous, because when you’re coaching them you have to command respect,” Oddo said, but gave them all the credit in the world for granting him such. Fore said there was no hesitation from the three of them in listening to their new coach. “Once he told us, we was ready from the start and took it serious. You got to do that with every workout,” Fore explained.
Following his graduate-transfer season with the Louisville Cardinals, Oddo has taken a job as an assistant coach at Aspire Academy, a prep school in Louisville, Kentucky. Along with that, he has been taking on clients for in-person and virtual one-on-one skills training. “I’ve been doing the training, and it has kind of really, really escalated here in the last two weeks. I’m temporarily taking a prep school head assistant job at this place called Aspire Academy,” Oddo said. The prep school job of course comes with the caveat of potentially not having a high school sports season due to COVID-19, but Oddo has been preparing for that by ramping up his individual training sessions. He is unsure if he would prefer to go the personal trainer or team coaching route, but noted they require the same skills, just applied differently. His ultimate goal is to coach in the NBA, where he has already begun to network.
A simple off-season workout was a chance to see former Spider greats hooping together in Richmond again. For Fore, Sherod and Cline, it was an opportunity to get more reps in. For Oddo, it was another small step toward a dream he hopes will keep him on the court for a long time.
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