E.A. Sports Today

‘Best seat to a great career’

Personal side, emotions show after Odam plays his last for Piedmont, father/coach in Northeast Regional loss to Plainview

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Neither Jonathan nor Alex Odam are much for speeches, at least not for public consumption, but Jonathan’s nervous left leg spoke Thursday.

It told of a father who had just coached the last game of his son’s legendary high school career, anticipating inevitable press questions after another hopeful Piedmont season met a dead end named Plainview at the Northeast Regional.

It was hard enough seeing an entertaining first quarter between two fast-paced, highly skilled teams slowly turn and burn into perennial state power Plainview’s 68-47 win in Pete Mathews Coliseum. It was hard enough seeing every Piedmont attempt at a run suffer the usual Plainview rapid-fire fate … a 3-pointer, turnover, quick pass, another three.

There’s something to be said about those attempts to make a run, though.

“We battled,” Jonathan Odam said, his voice losing its battle. “That’s my guys. I wouldn’t trade these 15 Bulldogs for anybody in the state of Alabama. I’ll go to bat with those guys any day.”

That part was hard enough.

With Alex seated next to him, Jonathan Odam tried to sum up the gravity of the moment. Jacksonville State’s Ray Harper will coach Alex Odam in the smooth point guard’s next “Red Mamba” outing, in the very same coliseum where Alex’s high school seasons ended.

Dad got to coach all 160 of Alex’s games at Piedmont, dating back to the 2017-18. From Jonathan’s seat on the bench, he saw all 3,229 points, a total good enough to place Alex first on Piedmont’s all-time list and 10th on the AHSAA’s list.

“The only thing I can say is, I had the best seat to a great career,” Jonathan said, wiping his left eye. “I enjoyed watching him and coaching him.

“He probably didn’t enjoy it as much as I did.”

Coaches who coach their kids have to keep their kids’ teammates sold on the fairness of it all. Coaches coaching their kids hardest is an old story.

Fathers and sons get in the car together and go home, though. For every game timeout to pose for pictures with another milestone-marking ball, there comes those tough practices that rage on from passenger seat to driver’s seat and back again.

“You don’t want to know,” Alex said, drawing laughs from the room.

Jonathan said he and Alex “almost came to blows one night.”

“It didn’t happen often,” Jonathan said. 

Several coaches who coached their kids advised the elder Odam. The list included White Plains’ Chris Randall, Spring Garden’s Ricky Austin and Hokes Bluff’s Jason Shields.

“They all said it was hard,” Jonathan said. “The best thing to do is leave it in the gym. I tried to every night. There were a couple of nights we couldn’t, so we carried it home, and it almost came to blows.

“He’s level-headed. He calms me down. He does it in games. He does it at home. Thanks to him, it didn’t come to blows, I guess is what I’m trying to say.”

That’s flavor from the personal side of one of Calhoun County’s most celebrated high school basketball careers.

As for the basketball side, there’s no shortage of people lining up to praise Alex Odam. That he’s a coach’s son comes across.

Playing in his final high school game, Piedmont’s Alex Odam goes up for two points against Plainview in Thursday’s Class 3A Northeast Regional final in Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Greg Warren)

“There are times when I think I know everything,” sophomore guard Ishmael Bethel said. “He’ll say something to me, and I’m like, right. He’s so smart.

“He sees things that nobody else sees.”

Freshman Rollie Pinto, who led Piedmont with 22 points Thursday, passed on a question that presented him as Piedmont’s potential next Alex Odam.

Even as Jonathan Odam sang Pinto’s praises, calling him “there” for a freshman and “as skilled as they come,” Pinto shook his head.

“There’s only one Alex Odam,” Pinto said.

Plainview coach Robi Coker got a few up-close looks at Alex Odam over the years. Even a team that knows him well must adjust to the game-speed reality versus film.

It’s not just Alex, but how Alex’s teammates work with him, Coker said. It took Plainview a quarter to get up to speed Thursday.

“He’s a very offensive-skilled basketball player,” Coker said. “Obviously, I’m a Gamecock, so we wish him nothing but the best in the future. …

“He absolutely had a phenomenal career, especially as it relates to putting it in the basket and playing with a group of guys. Every night, everything was focused on him.”

PLAINVIEW (29-6) – Levi Brown 3-7 1-1 8, Dylan Haymon 4-8 3-5 13, Landon 10-12 4-4 24, Luke Smith 2-10 0-0 4, Jonah Williams 5-8 3-3 17, Owen Wilborn 0-2 0-0 0, Sawyer Fraley 0-0 1-2 1, Ty Griggs 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-48 12-15 67.
PIEDMONT (25-6) –  Alex Odam 5-13 2-2 12, Rollie Pinto 9-21 0-0 22, Ishmael Bethel 3-8 2-4 8, Rhett Alford 0-1 0-0 0, Cole Wilson 2-7 0-0 6, Chance Murphy 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-51 4-6 48.
Plainview       21        9        20        17 –     67
Piedmont 21        2        8     17 –     48
3-point goals: Plainview 7-23 (Brown 1-4, Haymon 2-5, Smith 0-5, Williams 4-7, Wilborn 0-1, Griggs 0-1); Piedmont 6-27 (Odam 0-3, Pinto 4-14, Bethel 0-5, Wilson 2-5). Total fouls: Plainview 11, Piedmont 14. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: none. Officials: Alexander, Wesley, Smith.
All-tournament team: (Geraldine) Jaxon Colvin; (Piedmont) Bethel, Odam, Pinto; (Plainview) Haymon, Williams, White (MVP).

Piedmont’s Rollie Pinto goes up for two of his 22 points against Plainview on Thursday in Pete Mathews Coliseum. (Photo by Greg Warren)

Cover photo: Piedmont coach Jonathan Odam bows his head as son Alex (middle) and Piedmont assistant coach Matt Glover look on in the final seconds of the Bulldogs’ loss to Plainview in the Northeast Regional on Thursday.

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