By SCOTT TYLER

H-P Sports Editor



SLOCUM — When Slocum’s Leah O’Dell stepped onto the court, on the inside she may have felt nervous, but on the outside, the freshman was nothing but cool.

“I felt some pressure because I felt I had to prove something to people because I was a freshman,” O’Dell said. “I wanted to show there was a reason why I was out there.”

O’Dell went above and beyond proving herself as a freshman and her success on the basketball court this season helped get Slocum to the Class A, Division I state title game and also has earned her the Dogwood Circle Newcomer of the Year honor.

The Slocum freshman averaged 5.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.4 steals and was named to the District 24-A first team.

“Leah was able to blend into her role without age being a factor,” Slocum head coach Barry Gill said. “It was really important for her to handle the ball because it allowed our other players to play other roles.”

O’Dell’s role was not to score but do the things that could not be found in the scorebook.

“Leah did a lot of the dirty work,” Gill said. “She was our best held-side defender and she brought the ball down the court when Julie (Bowman) was not in the game.”

In the semi-state final game against Falls City, Slocum was holding onto a slim lead late in the game when Julie Bowman fouled out. It was up to O’Dell to bring the ball up the court against tough Falls City’s full court pressure, but O’Dell never panicked. The freshman stayed calm and did the job as Slocum held off Falls City to advance to the state title game.

“Leah probably had more pressure on her because she never played with anyone at this level,” Bowman said. “She worked just as hard as everyone else to earn a spot and she did not make many mistakes with a lot of pressure on her.

“She used her head in the games and did a good job stepping up as a freshman and one of the reasons we went so far is because of her.”

Gill said it did not take long for O’Dell to became a starter as in early season drills he realized what kind of skills she possessed.

“We were working on a difficult dribble and while a lot of the girls were having trouble with it, she got it right away,” Gill said. “I was using her to demonstrate how the drill was working.”

In the next three years, Gill said O’Dell has a lot of potential if she is dedicated.

“She can go wherever she wants to go if she wants to put in the work,” Gill said. “If she wants to work hard, she can be a tremendous player for us.”

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