Former Science Hill basketball player Josh Odem bit the hand that fed him to get a taste of March madness.
When more misadventures followed Odem’s premature departure from Chattanooga, King University coach George Pitts helped steer the talented 6-foot-5 guard toward Limestone College, an NCAA Division II program in Gaffney, S.C.
Limestone is also a league opponent of King, and the long-armed Odem helped Limestone beat King in two of three meetings this season, including the Conference Carolinas tournament championship game on Thursday in Concord, N.C.
Odem, a silky smooth junior, scored 11 points in the tournament title game after helping Limestone salvage a regular-season split with team highs in points (20), rebounds (11) and assists (six) during a win in Bristol on Feb. 15.
Pitts cares about young men that can’t help him win games — not that glaring proof of that fact is much solace when he was so close to another national tournament. Losing to Odem and company was bittersweet, Pitts agreed, with an uncommitted chuckle.
“I mean, I’m happy for him,” Pitts said Saturday, “but I basically shot myself in the foot. He’s the best player in the league. … He probably played his best game of the year at our place. We just couldn’t do anything with him. He’s a 6-6 guard that just runs the show. … And when he wants to, he’s probably the best defender in the conference as well.”
Indeed, while Odem is a skilled scorer who can get others involved on offense, Pitts perhaps first noted his basketball IQ while watching him man the 4-spot around halfcourt as a prep sophomore in a press that he said takes some players a couple of years to fully grasp. Pitts hopes said intelligence will help utilize a second chance on and off the court.
“I talked to him at the tournament this week,” Pitts said, “and told him if he gets his degree it’ll be worth it, and if he doesn’t get that degree all he’ll get is two years of playing basketball. He assured me he was on track to get it next May.”
Pitts had an academic all-conference player this year in Unicoi County alumnus Logan Lyle, a 6-foot-5 junior that joined Odem and King teammate Hunter LeVeau on the second-team all-conference team. Lyle (14.9 ppg) scored 30 points in each of King’s two league tournament victories, and scored 18 of King’s first 20 in a semifinal win against No. 2-seeded Barton College. He made 95 treys while shooting 40.6 percent from 3-point range.
“He was in a little slump midway to the latter part of the season,” Pitts said, “but he really stepped it up in the tournament. In the three tournament games he scored 30, 30, 18 … so he really picked it up late. He’s well over the 1,000-point mark … and I look forward to a great senior year from him. … He’s been a great fit at King the three years he’s been there.”
LeVeau and fellow freshman/Science Hill graduate C.J. Good fit in right away for Pitts. The 6-foot-5 LeVeau was named the league’s freshman of the year, as was Lyle two years ago. LeVeau led the Tornado in rebounding (5.9), was second in scoring (13.6) and made 81 treys while shooting 40.9 percent behind the arc. His 31 steals were tied for the team lead.
Good, Science Hill’s career leader in 3-pointers, began his college career by shooting a blistering 45.2 percent from 3-point distance. He made 75 treys and averaged 9.7 points per game.
“I’ve always felt they would be good fits for us, but I think they exceeded my expectations the first year,” Pitts said. “Hunter was the freshman of the year in the conference and second-team all-conference. C.J. was one of, if not the top 3-point shooter percentage wise in the conference. … I think both of them are going to be really, really good players for us. …
“I’ve never really cared what classification anybody is; if they deserve to play they’re gonna play. And both of them showed pretty early in practice that they were gonna be two that were gonna see the floor a lot. … I think they’ve got a chance to really help us get where we want to be.”
And the end isn’t in sight for the 67-year-old Pitts, who’s gone 173-77 at King, including a victory at Appalachian State, after winning three state titles at Science Hill (1990, ’94, ’95) and four straight at Brentwood Academy (2003-06).
“I have no thoughts of not continuing to coach,” Pitts said. “Several times people have asked me that. Hey, I enjoy what I’m doing. I still think I can be a factor in working with young men, and I want to continue it.”
Whether they’re on his team or not.comments powered by Disqus