Friar Basketball

November 14, 1998: Down Goes Odom

What horrible luck I had.  Everyone from the class of 2001 remembers watching Providence’s Elite 8 run as high school seniors and thinking either “Why couldn’t I have been born a year earlier?” or the more naive thought “I can’t wait for this when I get there!”

I would complain about my four years at PC (1997-2001) with one NCAA appearance and a loss to brothers from Penn State who looked like they couldn’t guard me (still to this day don’t know how Linehan didn’t torture the Crispins), but at least we saw the tournament, which is more than you can say for anyone stepping on campus since 2005.

What all PC classes have in common is that one URI game that sticks out.  For us it was our sophomore year clash with a Rams team coming off of an Elite 8 appearance the year before.  This one stood out because it was one of those “cringe-worthy pregames turned ‘how long can we hold onto this 8 point lead’ turned ‘holy shit, we’re going to win this thing!'” games.

Note: Other notable cringe-worthy pregames turned “holy shit” games include the Patriots vs. Rams “let’s just hope we aren’t completely humiliated out there” Super Bowl and Providence vs. Pitt in 2009.

Why it was cringe-worthy beforehand: The URI backcourt of Cuttino Mobley and Tyson Wheeler was terrifyingly good enough to push them to the brink of the Final Four the previous season.  They were gone, which was great, but now they were adding a quasi-student 6’10 high school All American who many thought would be the top pick in the NBA draft the next season in Lamar Odom to go along with good role players in Luther Clay, Antonio Reynolds-Dean (now coaching at Northeastern) and Tavorris Bell (now an And1 castoff)?  I referred to Odom as quasi-student back then because I was bitter that URI got him, but it took a good 10 years before we really knew just how thick this guy was when he married a fellow 6’10 quasi-illiterate, yet smartest of the  Kardashian sisters, after dating her for three weeks.

What did PC throw out there against them?  A team that had lost to Team Fokus to kick of the Tim Welsh regime.  Oh, Timmy.

What made this game great?

  • Thomas was electric, scoring 30 points (19 in the 1st half) on 5-8 from three point land.  Most notably, he threw down a dunk in garbage time, stood there and snarled for a good five seconds, completely disregarding any notion of getting back on defense in the coolest thing anyone at PC did from 97-01, leading us to coin the term “Jamel face.”  He was going pro after his junior year, there was no doubt after this one.
  • Odom gave a preview of his 2008 Finals play ten years early with a 5 point (zero in the 2nd half), 8 turnover performance.  “It was a very humbling experience,” according to Lamar.
  • The AP headline “Even Providence coach Tim Welsh was surprised by the way the Friars beat No. 23 Rhode Island.”  How didn’t we know?
  • The 24 point win was PC’s biggest over URI since 1967.
  • In what has become an annual tradition we watch 10 minutes of the Mal Brown scrimmage, each pick a guy we can’t stand and one we each love and stand by him with everything we’ve got.  For my roommate, he took his Jamal Camah love to the next level, bringing signs to every game.  Upon rushing the court he flashed the sign in Camah’s face after perhaps his best game in a Friar uniform – 11 points.  Camah stood there half stunned, assumingly trying to figure out if he was being made fun of, but also somehow feeling like it was justified.  “Keep that coming, boy” he confidently boasted as he left the court.