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17. Rhode Island The Rams are loaded with talent--and much of it belongs to Lamar Odom, who at 6'10" has the skills of a point guard


On June 17, Rhode Island held a press conference to announce
that 6'10" sophomore forward Lamar Odom was going to be admitted
as a full-time student at the end of the summer. In most cases
such news would barely warrant a press release, but the
announcement of the impending eligibility of the highly touted
Odom was deemed so important--coming as it did just 24 hours
after the school announced plans to build a $50 million
arena--that the state's governor, Lincoln Almond, was in

Later that day Rams coach Jim Harrick called Odom and senior
forward Antonio Reynolds-Dean into his office and asked
Reynolds-Dean to serve as Odom's mentor this season. It was a
wise move on Harrick's part, given Odom's academic troubles,
which made him ineligible last season. The two players have
since grown tight. But Odom doesn't need anyone to tell him that
big brother will be watching. "It seems like I've been talked
about in Rhode Island more than some pros," he says. "Sometimes
people build you up to be something you're not ready to live up

Odom is ready. In his debut, an 87-85 victory over TCU, he was
one assist shy of a triple double, hit the game-winning shot and
flashed a range of skills that could make him the top pick in
the 1999 NBA draft. His arrival will help fill the talent void
left by the departure of the Rams' two best players, guards
Tyson Wheeler and Cuttino Mobley, who last season led the team
to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. While
Odom will start on a front line of Reynolds-Dean and 6'9" junior
Luther Clay, who came on strong after battling through ankle and
foot injuries during the regular season, he'll be playing power
forward, small forward and, on occasion, the point. "It's a huge
amount of pressure," Odom says. "But I think I've matured a lot."

Last December, Odom's college career appeared to be in jeopardy
when, as a nonmatriculating student, he abruptly left school for
12 days during final exams. The road back hasn't been easy, but
he appears to be on the right path. "I've had to go through some
rough times, but I'm here now," he says. "It's just time to


COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN HARD TO HANDLE Odom may be the top pick in the '99 NBA draft. [Lamar Odom in game]



SF Lamar Odom 6'10" So. 25.1 ppg*
PF [**]A. Reynolds-Dean 6'7" Sr. 7.6 rpg
C [**]Luther Clay 6'9" Jr. 9.8 ppg
SG Tip Vinson 6'4" Fr. 23.1 ppg*
PG Preston Murphy 6'1" Sr. 9.1 ppg

'97-98 record: 25-9 Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 11
[**]Returning starter *ppg as high school senior ('96-97 for Odom)