Darius Johnson Odom is a 25 year old 187cm point guard from Raleigh, North Carolina that is playing his third professional season and first for Acqua Vitasnella Cantu (Italy-Serie). He started his basketball career for Marquette (NCAA) and as a senior in 2011-2012 played 34 games averaging 18.3ppg, 3.5rpg, 2.7apg, FGP: 49.3%, 3PT: 38.5%, FT: 76.4%. IN 2012 he was drafted by the Dallas Maverick. AS a rookie he played for the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA): 4 games: 0pts, 1.0rpg, in Nov.’12 assigned at Los Angeles D-Fenders (D-League, starting five): 13 games: 21.0ppg, 5.2rpg, 5.2apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 45.9%, 3PT: 39.3%, FT: 81.7%, released in Jan.’13, later that month agreed terms with Spartak St.Petersburg (Russia-PBL): 2 games: 4.5ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.0apg; VTB League: 7 games: 6.9ppg, 1.4rpg, FGP: 47.6%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 66.7%; EuroCup: 4 games: 4.8ppg, 1.0apg. Last season he played for the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA): 4 games: 0pts, 1.0rpg, in Nov.’12 assigned at Los Angeles D-Fenders (D-League, starting five): 13 games: 21.0ppg, 5.2rpg, 5.2apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 45.9%, 3PT: 39.3%, FT: 81.7%, released in Jan.’13, later that month agreed terms with Spartak St.Petersburg (Russia-PBL): 2 games: 4.5ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.0apg; VTB League: 7 games: 6.9ppg, 1.4rpg, FGP: 47.6%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 66.7%; EuroCup: 4 games: 4.8ppg, 1.0apg. He spoke to German Hoops before the Eurocup game against the Artland Dragons.
Darius thanks for talking to German Hoops. You are preparing with Cantu for the Eurocup match against the Artland Dragons. Is this your first time in Germany and what is your impression of the country and what do you know about the Beko BBL?
I don´t know much about Germany as this is my first time here. I know my ex teammate from Marquette Chris Otule is playing here this season. I just got back form practice in the Artland arena. It was a nice little arena. I am looking forward to the game against Artland. The people here in Germany have been very nice.
In your first two professional seasons you have been on the move playing in the States, China and Russia. This season you are looking to play your first full season in Europe. Cantu also sprouts with beauty and here in the Artland there is not much except cow pastures. Does the tranquility of your surrounding area give you time to reflect on how far you have come as a professional or is every place you go just another basketball business trip?
I have seen many places so far in my career so it is more of a basketball business trip for me. So far everywhere where I have played it has been a good experience. My stay in China was short and I remember a lot of smog. Playing in St Petersbrug Russia was also nice. That was a very beautiful city. What I will remember most from Russia was how cold it was and all the snow.
AV Cantu are currently in sixth place in the Italian Serie A with a record of 4-3. At what juncture do you see the team chemistry at now and will the team pick up their game with time?
We got a win against Caserta last weekend. We have had injury problems with James Feldeine missing some games, but all in all I believe that we are coming along. We are still trying to figure out the Eurocup as we have had some real tough loses in that competition.
The team is 1-5 in Eurocup play and meet Artland tonight. Cantu wants revenge form the 77-76 home loss. What does the team want to do better this time?
We have to do a better job securing defensive rebounds against the Artland Dragons. We gave up too many second chance shots in the loss at home. Anthony King had a good game so we will have to do a better job on him. I thought that we did a pretty good job containing their guards in the first game. We also have to play good pick and role defense.
You are almost 20 centimeters taller than David Holston. What is always most difficult when playing against a very much shorter point guard?
The speed and quickness is always the most difficult, but I am used to it. Holston is a good point guard and quicker than I am. But I have been thinking about the game a lot and how to play Holston this time again. I thought I did a pretty good job on him in the first game and in Artland I will try to get him out of being comfortable on the court.
The first thing that one notices about you in your stats is your scoring ability, but what is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t always get noticed?
I think that a hidden strength in my game is my defense. I feel I am good on and off ball defending. For me basketball is always a learning experience especially in my first season in Europe. I am always learning when to attack or better to move the ball. I see it as always trying to improve.
How thankful are you that the team has some more Americans on the team with Eric Williams, Damian Hollis and Dequan Jones. How have they made the transition to European basketball easier?
I am very thankful having Americans on my team. Damian Hollis has played a few years in Italy and knows how the league works and Eric Williams has played half his career in Italy. I have known him since junior year in high school. He is always helping me on the court and telling me never to get upset about a refs call, because you wont get it back.
China usually gets interest of Americans because of the money. You played four games with Sichuan Blue Whales (China-CBA) and then left. Why was China such a short stay for you?
It was short, but to be honest, I didn’t see it being a league where I could improve at such a young age. In China they want you to score a lot. They want you to score 50-60 points, but how should a young point guard improve like that? I still have aspirations of the NBA. The money was great, but I always want to improve and get back to the States and I just didn’t see that happening if I remained in China.
What kind of a whirlwind rookie season did you have? You started with the Dallas Mavericks and then played with the Los Angeles Lakers. I don´t think there are many guys that can say that had a Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant as teammates within days. What will you cherish most form that time on and off the court?
I actually didn’t play with the Dallas Mavericks as I was traded on draft day. I spent some time with the Los Angeles Lakers and it was a great experience. I was able to see how hard Kobe worked and his work ethic proves that he is a true basketball professional. It was magnificent as well playing with Pau Gasol who is such a great passer and efficient scorer. Dwight Howard kept pushing me to always work hard because one day that chance for the NBA may still come. I hung out a lot with him and still talk to him to this day.
You played with so many future NBA players at Marquette like Jimmy Butler, Lazar Hayward or Dwight Buycks, but what memories do you have of Chris Otule? Your ex teammate Maurice Acker said he worked so hard on the court and you would never have thought that he only had vision in one eye. He was so smart and picked up different traits that helped him work around his disability on the court. He was a tough inside presence as hardly any one could stop him. He was one of the toughest players that I ever played with.
Chris Otule gave his all each day. He always improved. He came in as a seven footer that rebounded and that was it. He improved and became an even better player and learned how to play better with one eye. He was hurt and came back each time and just fought and always got better. I am really happy that he is able to play professionally in Germany.
Maurice Acker also lauded coach Buzz Williams as being high on team basketball and life issues. How did he prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
Basketball was hard in general if you played for him. We had practices at 5AM and ran very much. We also played two years with out a center. I think that he prepared me best to be ready for those situations where something may not happen or something bad happens. He taught me to always fight and strive for the best. The way he coached it was like having a chip on your shoulder.
Who was the toughest player that you played against in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
I cant really give an answer to that, but he didn’t get to the NBA. Preston Knowles of Louisville was the toughest guy that I played against. He was an incredible player. He made everything against us.
Who won a one on one back in the day you or Dwight Buycks?
He did. He was an amazing player and just too good 1-1.
Who would win a state basketball tournament North Carolina or Ohio?
North Carolina of course.
Where will the journey of the Charlotte Hornets end?
It doesn’t look promising, but it is a long season and they have some young players. I hope that they make the top 8.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
Devils double. It is a movie about Saddam Hussein double. It was a pretty good movie.
Thanks Darius for the chat.