Oden opens eyes at national competition|Roanoke point guard represents Redskins well

Published 12:19 pm Saturday, August 15, 2009

Staff Writer

Aaron Oden came back from Chicago to his small hometown of Robersonville on Aug. 2 with a fourth-place finish in the USA Junior Nationals “International Sports Festival” and a wealth of knowledge and experience.
Oden, a 6’2, 160 pound, point guard for the Roanoke Redskins, said the level of competition he played at Nationals was far-superior to that in the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s Class 1A Four Rivers Conference, which the Redskins play out of.
“Playing the competition that I play, I don’t see a lot of guys like that. It was good playing against them,” he said.
The competition, which featured prep players from across the country, was held from Monday, July 27 to Sunday, Aug. 2. Oden played on the North Carolina/California team, which had a strong showing in the competition’s playoffs.
“We did good,” Oden said.
The team went 7-9 in regular play and made it all the way to the semifinals in the playoff tournament. Oden saw plenty of minutes for his squad since there are 10 players on each team and five sub in and out every few minutes.
“Me, as a point guard, I held my position. I did what I had to do for us to win — defense, offense, anything.”
Oden said he has always held that mentality, whether he’s playing for the Redskins, his AAU team, the Washington-area Delta City Ballers or in a high-profile competition.
“I’ll do anything my coach needs me to do, whether it’s get rebounds, block, score, penetrate, anything,” he said.
For all his work on the court and in the classroom, Roanoke boy’s basketball coach Darryl Pittman helped Oden land the tryout that got him to the National event. The tryout was for the USA Junior Nationals all-state high school basketball competition.
In the competition, players formed teams and had to sub out every four minutes.
“So you really had to ball-up,” Oden said.
About 120 players participated in the competition, held in Greensboro earlier in the summer.
“There was a lot of competition there,” Oden said.
The Roanoke rising senior point guard admitted he was nervous at first, but got used to running his team.
“I worked hard. I played good,” he said.
And that led to an invite to the National event.
To get to the competition in Chicago, Oden got plenty of support from his family and neighbors in Robersonville. His mother, Vonda, helped raise money to pay for his travel expenses with a bake sale and fish fry.
“A lot of people have donated money,” Vonda said.
Oden’s uncle, Charles “Hawkeye” Whitley, who played basketball for N.C. State, has been helping Oden get noticed by college basketball programs, including East Carolina, State and Notre Dame.
Oden and his mother said they were thankful for all the support the family has received in trying to further Oden’s playing career.
“We would like to thank the community of Robersonville,” Vonda said.