SportStars Magazine

Rise of Oderah

In 3 years, Oderah Chidom has gone from gangly frosh to owning a spot on the U17 National team roster.

By CLAY KALLAM | Contributor

 

“I knew it was going to be intense,” said Oderah Chidom after a USA Basketball tryout in May. “I didn’t know it was going to be this intense.”

Chidom, a 6-3 (at least) forward from Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland, was in Colorado Springs with 32 other girls, battling for a spot on the Under-17 team that would play for the FIBA World Championship Aug. 17-26 in Amsterdam. Chidom was a relative unknown with no previous USA Basketball tryout experience, and she was facing long odds.

All 12 gold medalists from the U16 team that had won the FIBA Americas in Mexico in 2011 were returning, plus Diamond DeShields, who had played for the 2011 World Championship U17 team. In addition, players like Gabby Green (St. Mary’s-Berkeley), who had just missed making that U-16 team, were in camp as well, ready to prove to the selection committee that mistakes had been made.

“Before I got here, I thought about Diamond coming back,” said Green (who many thought should have made the team in 2011) in May. “How am I going to fit in?

“Everybody’s great here.”

Chidom, a relatively slender forward, felt the same way. “I’m average,” she said at the time, sizing up the competition. “I have to use my speed and quickness.”

Also working against her was the USA Basketball decision to have her play in the paint, which she didn’t even do that much at O’Dowd, given the presence of K.C. Waters and Breanna Brown, two other elite posts.

Add in the altitude, the pressure, and the level of play, and Chidom was challenged every second. “AAU is nothing compared to this,” she said. “You can’t take any plays off.”

Chidom didn’t, but even so, she wasn’t confident she would make the team.

“They called us in the last day, and made a 15-minute speech about how we’re all elite players, and we all did great, but no one really heard the speech. We were all nervous,” she says. “They started reading off some names, and they didn’t call me, so I thought I didn’t make the team — but that was the shuttle list for the airport.

“Then they started announcing who made it, and because my last name starts with a “C,” I was second. I just stopped listening then,” she says. “I was shocked, surprised and excited.”

So despite all the hurdles she faced, Chidom had come out of nowhere to qualify for a World Championship team, and will return to Colorado Springs Aug. 1 for nine days of training. She already had a little taste of what to expect in Orlando when the team gathered together for the first time in late May.

“I had my shot blocked five times a day,” she says. “I’m used to dominating at O’Dowd, and whenever something’s wrong, you give the ball to Oderah. But everyone on that team averages 20 a game.”

But there was a time, not that long ago, when the only 20 a game Chidom was going to get was fouls.

“Her freshman year, she was scary,” says O’Dowd teammate and point guard Ariell Bostick. “If you were going to get hurt, you’d get hurt by Oderah. She tried to block everything.”

O’Dowd coach Malik McCord has to agree. “If you could see some old videos … oh my God,” he says. “She was so raw, but by the end of her freshman year, I’d never seen that much growth in that short a time.”

“She finally learned to calm down,” says Bostick. “When I saw her play last summer, I knew who I was going to pass to.”

But that improvement hasn’t affected her outgoing personality. 

“She’s goofy,” says McCord. “She’s a great kid and she doesn’t let it go to her head.”

McCord also knew Chidom was primed to surprise some people in Colorado Springs. “Oderah is taller than me, and I’m 6-3, and people don’t realize how strong she is. She’s solid — she’s muscle.”

And she’s also had to use that muscle. 

“She practiced against K.C. (Waters) and Bree (Brown) every day,” McCord added. “And they go to war.”

And here’s a scary thought: “I don’t know if she’s stopped growing.”

Chidom definitely hasn’t stopped growing as a player, as she’s constantly expanding her horizons. This summer, she’s playing for Team Taurasi, which is based in Los Angeles, and she has her sights set on the Nike Nationals in South Carolina July 27-31.

“Our primary goal is to win a Nike Nationals’ banner,” says Chidom of Team Taurasi, which includes East Bay players Green, Waters and Mariya Moore (Salesian). Things didn’t get off to a great start, though, when the group went 0-3 at the prestigious Boo Williams event this past spring.

“Boo Williams was our first tournament together, and there were only three returners,” she says. “It was pretty frustrating — we constantly use Boo as a reminder.”

And even though Team Taurasi doesn’t practice that much because of the geographically scattered roster, that doesn’t mean Chidom isn’t working on getting better. “I spend three hours in the gym a day,” she says, often working with Piedmont High coach Bryan Gardere.

“I’m most comfortable at the four, but in college, I’ll be smaller than the other girls. Right now, my body doesn’t match up,” she says, intimating that she would like to move to the three at the next level.

First, though, comes USA Basketball, and for the FIBA Worlds, she’ll be at power forward — but even so, there are adjustments to be made.

“There’s different kinds of basketball all across the country,” Chidom says, and that first training in Orlando was helpful in getting used to how her teammates approached the game. “I’m used to outlet, slow it down, run a play, but the Southern girls want to run the floor every time.”

The Under-18 players were also in Florida, and they gave Chidom and the other newcomers some insights into international basketball. “Every single team will play its best against the USA,” Chidom says. “Everyone wants to prove themselves.

“Our coaches keep telling us that no matter how short they are, where they come from or how bad they look warming up, we have to be ready,” she says. “Last year, the team was down at halftime, and we don’t want that to happen.”

But Chidom also knows she needs to be fresh mentally and physically come late August, so she’s going to take it easier on the summer circuit. “Last summer I did the entire circuit and by Aug. 1, I was exhausted,” she says. “I don’t need AAU as much to get a scholarship, so I’ll go to Phoenix (for a tournament with Team Taurasi) but I won’t play.”

That should get her ready for Nike Nationals, and then, a few weeks later it’s off to Italy for training prior to the trip to Amsterdam – and then it’s back home to get ready for the high school season, in which not only is O’Dowd favored to repeat as the Division III state champion, but is also expected to be ranked in the top 10 in the nation.

Chidom, though, is ready to carry the load, and even though she’s already exceeded expectations, she’s still a developing player. 

“She’s not even as close to being as good as she’s going to be,” says McCord, which is a scary thought for players in California, across the country and in fact, around the world.


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