Originally posted on www.timesdispatch.com by John O'Connor
Most kids seriously interested in playing basketball begin AAU involvement by age 12. Alonzo Nelson-Ododa didn’t regularly start playing organized offseason hoops until he was 17.
That’s why the “late-bloomer” tag was originally slapped on Nelson-Ododa, the University of Richmond’s 6-foot-9 redshirt sophomore. Nelson-Ododa lived in Lansing, Mich., until he was 10 and then moved to the Atlanta area.
“My parents didn’t have a clue about (AAU), and I didn’t have a clue,” he said. “It wasn’t until I started playing better in high school that I got that exposure and I was able to join an AAU team.”
The same sort of development may be on the horizon for Nelson-Ododa as a collegian, according to Richmond coach Chris Mooney.
“I think just the more he plays, and the more he is out there, he could really become a tremendous player,” said Mooney, whose Spiders open Nov. 8 against visiting Delaware.
Nelson-Ododa redshirted as a true freshman and was primarily a defender/rebounder as a freshman starter last season. He averaged 3.9 points and 4 rebounds. Nelson-Ododa blocked 62 shots for the Spiders, who went 19-15, 8-8 A-10. Thirty-nine percent of his field goal attempts came from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I was kind of shying away from contact, just because (opponents were) bigger and more experienced,” Nelson-Ododa said. “During the summer, I worked more on my inside game, doing a lot of post moves and stuff like that.”
At this time last year, Nelson-Ododa weighed 210 pounds. He now weighs 228 with improved strength.
“I can hold my own in the post more this year,” he said.
An excellent measuring stick for Nelson-Ododa during practice is interior contact with Derrick Williams, the 6-foot-6, 270 pound Spiders senior.
“Alonzo has come along tremendously,” Williams said. “He understands now that his position is vital to our offense as well as our team. He’s grown to realize that he is a key part of our offense.”
The season in which Nelson-Ododa redshirted (2011-12), Richmond started 6-9 Darrius Garrett, the leading shot-blocker in program history. Garrett never averaged more than 4.5 points. On Thursday, Nelson-Ododa said that’s not where his career is going.
“I’ve always liked to block shots, but this year, I definitely want to focus on my offensive game,” he said. “I think I can help the team tremendously with the defense and the blocked shots, but I feel like to push us forward, I have to work on my offensive game even more, and try things in the game.
“It starts off in practice. If I don’t try things in practice, I’m not going to try it in the game, obviously.”
Though Nelson-Ododa intends to score more inside, he will not abandon 3-point attempts.
Having big men who can step out and hit perimeter shots helps Mooney’s spread offense operate successfully.
“He loves it when anybody shoots 3s,” Nelson-Ododa said of Mooney, “especially when you can make them.”
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