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Can Dwon Odom be the straw that stirs the drink?

Xavier’s uber-athletic point guard was brilliant at times during a stop-start freshman campaign, but does he hold the key to making a loaded backcourt function?

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Rather than a full on preview for each player on the roster this year we will be attempting to focus on one question that will determine how the player might fit on the team. The questions aren’t designed to carry either a positive or negative connotation, just really suss out how the roster is built. We’ll start with the freshman and build on to the players everyone knows. We know and you know the caveats that Covid brings, so this will be the only mention of it.

Dwon Odom showed in his second college game what kind of mental makeup he has. With his shooting line for the game sitting at 1-9/0-0/0-0 and on the heels of a disappointing miss which had been followed immediately by the Bradley Braves taking the lead with 12 seconds left at the Cintas Center, Xavier’s point guard called his own number and backed himself for a shot at redemption and delivering victory in a game in which the Musketeers had been far from their best. He slashed down the right side of the lane, directly at Bradley’s 6’8” shot blocking menace Elijah Childs, and kissed a runner off the glass that hung on the front iron for a tantalizing before falling through and giving Xaiver their final margin of victory. The next day, he showed what he could do at the other end in flummoxing MAC Player of the Year Marreon Jackson, harassing him into a 5-18 shooting performance and sending a pair of second half shot attempts out of the 513 area code as Xavier stormed back from 12 down to beat Toledo.

In those 48 hours, Xavier fans got glimpses of a player so steady, so utterly confident with the ball in his hands no matter the situation, that it was hard to believe we were watching a true freshman at work. Sure there were games where the fact he was an 18 year old playing high major college basketball for the first time was evident, the less said about the EKU game the better, but in Odom Xavier has a player they can trust to make the right choices when trying to kill off UC in their own gym or throw down a thunderous dunk off an alley oop to break the spirits of St. John’s.

Which is not to say Odom is the finished article. Far from it, in fact. His shooting line of .491/.607/.154 has a number that probably stands out as not very good. However, of players who shot the ball at least 50 times for Xavier last season, no one took a higher proportion of their shots at the rim than Odom and only Zach Freemantle and Adam Kunkel (?) converted from there at a higher rate. Only Jason Carter and the foul magnet that is Colby Jones were more effective at getting to the line than Odom although his 60% mark there will surely be an area he has improved upon this summer. The scoring profile on Odom is not hard to identify: he has little interest in shooting threes, he will try things in the midrange if need be (shot 44.7% on 2 point jumpers), but his goal is to get to the rim and either get his two points or his two free throws.

That being said, Odom’s biggest area where he contributes to Xavier’s offense has a lot to do with what he doesn’t do, which is shoot a lot. With Scruggs, Johnson, Tandy, Kunkel, Freemantle, and Jones already in the mix and Jerome Hunter joining from Indiana, Xavier has a wealth of willing options when it comes to pulling the trigger on the deep ball. What makes Odom a unique, and in my opinion invaluable, member of this squad is that he is so dangerous when going to the hoop that teams will not be able to dare him to beat them off the dribble. Because he will. Odom’s high assist rate (23.6 %) combined with his extremely low turnover rate (14.2%) make him the ideal table setter for a team bristling with high octane scoring options. It is no surprise, then, that when evaluating Xaiver’s lineups that played at least 15 possessions together last season, Odom’s name appears in all of the top 3 in efficiency margin (as does Jason Carter’s but you all aren’t ready for that article).

Dwon Odom did not have a 20 point game last season, in fact he was only in double digits 5 times. Still, it is hard to overestimate the impact he had on Xavier’s season with his relentless work getting into the lane and harassing opposing point guards. Perhaps his most telling line last season was 5/1/5 on 2-3/0-0/1-1 and no turnovers. Xavier beat Oklahoma by 22 points the night Odom did that, not because he went off from deep, but because he did all the little things to set the stage for his teammates to do so. In Odom, Xavier has a player who knows his strengths, knows his role, and executes on those things at a high level.

And he can jump really high.