Growing Gains: Oderah Chidom
Orlando, Fla. • May 29, 2012
By her own admission, Oderah Chidom (Bishop O'Dowd H.S./Oakland, Calif.) is not the player she was three years ago -- and that's a good thing. On top of the three inches she has added since her freshman season, the 6-3 forward has put in a lot of hard work and developed a mid-range game.
"I started playing basketball in the second grade, but I hated it," Chidom said. "I didn't play again until about seventh grade, and I didn't start being competitive until my freshman year of high school. That's when my high school coach saw a little potential, and we've just keep working ever since."
That isn't the answer you would expect out of one of the nation's best players 17-years old or younger. After three days of trials two weeks ago, Chidom was one of 12 players named to the 2012 USA Basketball Women's U17 World Championship Team.
"When they called my name, it was like, 'Was that my name?' It was surreal," Chidom remembered. "When I got home, I think I'm one of the first people from my area to make a USA Basketball team, so I got a bunch of congratulations text messages, voice mails and Twitter and Facebook messages. My family was really proud. My high school was really proud. It was just an honor."
What changed for Chidom three years ago was a desire to be like three seniors she played with at Bishop O'Dowd.
"My freshman year, I just wanted to be like the three Division I seniors on our team -- Robie Mayberry went to Pepperdine, Mikayla Lyles is at Cal and Alexis Bostick is at Oregon State. Seeing the hard work they put in and how that led to them getting their scholarships, I wanted to be a part of that. But freshman year, I would never have imagined being where I am today."
Today, not only is Chidom a USA Basketball athlete, but she also is a 2012 California Division II state champion with a 30-3 record this past season.
"It was the first time our girls basketball high school team had ever won a state title, so we created a legacy at our school, and it was really a surreal moment," Chidom said. "We worked hard."
From struggling freshman to state champion, Chidom said it has been a long and continuing process to develop her game.
"At first, all I could do was do layups in transition. Freshman year I primarily worked on back-to-the-basket moves. And then over the summer, faced up. And then I gradually stepped out and got further away from the basket. Playing against girls who were twice my size in weight, I wasn't able to compete as hard. So, I developed a mid-range game, and I'm still working on it."
Wanting to be like a great player is something different than become a great player, and Chidom said it also was her father's hard-working example that helped her stay motivated.
"My dad, he's not from this country, and his work ethic is just extremely strong. So, seeing him and his dedication, it just kind of rubbed off on me. He came from Nigeria to America for school, met my mom and stayed. The stuff he learned growing up, he's taught to us. Things like, if you start something you have to finish it. And he's just been a big role model and key factor in my life."
This week, Chidom is in Orlando, Fla., training with the USA U17 team in preparation for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship, which will be played Aug. 17-26 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Before that, the team will train again at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where trials were conducted, and in Caorle, Italy, where it will play exhibition games against U17 national teams from Australia, Brazil and Italy.
"My mom works for an airline, so we do travel a lot. I've been out of the country on numerous occasions, but I've never been out of the country for sports. Usually when I do go, it's for vacation and vacation only, so now to go for 'work' and to be invited to something it's an honor. I'm proud and excited. I don't know what to expect."
While the hunt for a gold medal is the team's ultimate goal, the current challenge is to take advantage of the team's short amount of training time. After practice on May 28 and two-a-days on May 29 and 30, the USA will take on Brazil in a friendly contest at 4 p.m. on May 31, with the scrimmage being broadcast live on ESPN3. The team has one more practice on June 1 before departing for home.
"Training camp is not exactly what I expected but I like it. I expected a lot of running and lot of drill work, but it's more about chemistry building. That's not too new to me, though, because my AAU team is from all over the West Coast, so we have limited practices and when we do practice it has to be intense and it's long. We don't have that much chemistry and we have to force it kind of. This is a little different because we are from all over the country, but it's also similar."
Chidom wears a U-S-A jersey each day in practice, but she says she still hasn't realized the full meaning of what she's accomplished by representing her country.
"It hasn't sunk in yet. It's an honor to be a part of this. I'm really excited and I take every day like it's my last."