Jeremiah Oden Isn’t Playing Much But His Attitude Helps This Wyoming Cowboy Shine
LARAMIE -- Jeremiah Oden played all of 11 minutes in last week's two-game series against Border War rival, Colorado State. He scored just two points.
Aside from a 17-minute outing on the road at San Diego State back on Jan. 30, the freshman from Chicago didn't reach double-digits in court time in the previous five games?
"It's hard to play college basketball," Wyoming's first-year head coach Jeff Linder bluntly stated. "It's really hard when you're a freshman."
Growing pains? Yeah, there have been plenty of those for this entire roster. Oden is not immune. In fact, the 6-foot-8 forward's first season in Laramie has been anything but normal.
Oden was forced to slide over to the five spot after Eoin Nelson went down with a leg injury on New Year's Day. That means Oden's new home was in the paint, battling some of the top big men in the Mountain West.
A tall task for anyone, let alone a 180-pound 18-year-old playing in his eighth career game.
His first assignment was helping limit Fresno State's 7-foot, 235-pound Orlando Robinson. Wyoming won that first meeting, 78-74. Oden finished with 11 points and four rebounds in 29 minutes. Robinson netted 15 on 7-of-13 shooting from the field.
Two nights later was a much different story.
The Bulldogs rolled to an easy 81-61 victory. Robinson scored a career-high 33 points. He hit 12 of his 16 shots, most of which were the high-percentage kind right around the rim. Oden finished with just four points, two of which came at the free-throw line.
"It was unfortunate for him," Linder said. "When Eoin went down we had to move him over because we didn't have very many bodies."
With the debut of Graham Ike in late January, the paint is now patrolled by his 6-foot-10, 245-pound frame with the wingspan to match. Oden's minutes have sharply decreased.
"He's kind of making that adjustment," Linder said of Oden. "You have to read and react a lot more in our offense. So, it takes some time and takes some guys a little bit longer than others."
Oden has shown glimpses of why programs like Minnesota, UMass, St. Louis, and plenty of others, recruited him so heavily. He can finish in the lane, sky for the rim and even hit the occasional three.
His best game this season came on the road against a Pac-12 opponent. Oden finished with 15 points in a 76-73 win over Oregon State. It was just his fourth collegiate game, but he was -- at times -- the best player on the court.
In the first half, a 7-0 run by Oden tied the game at 31-31. As the Beavers stretched their lead to double digits early in the second, Oden hit three straight buckets to keep the visitors within striking distance.
Linder said expectations can be skewed because of the successes of some freshmen players like Marcus Williams, Ike and Xavier DuSell. That's the exception, not the rule.
"There are very few freshmen in the country that are having some of the seasons that some of our freshmen are having," he said.
What has impressed Linder most about Oden is the way he has handled the drop in minutes.
"It hasn't affected his work ethic," he said. "I mean, he's always in here watching film. He's always in the gym, working out. I mean, it's just sometimes it takes some guys a little bit longer than others."
Despite playing less than a dozen minutes against the Rams, Linder added that he liked what he saw. Oden pulled down an aggressive rebound that drew a stare down and plenty of whistles in the second contest. He also hit a pair of free throws.
Wyoming will travel to Colorado Springs Wednesday to take on the New Mexico Lobos, who will be calling Clune Arena home for the remainder of the regular season.
UNM is struggling. They've won just five games this season as COVID-19 has snagged the most of the local headlines and sent players and coaches to Lubbock, Texas for their home games. Despite the record, their roster -- as usual -- is loaded with length and athleticism.
Could this be the series that Oden gets back on track?
"I see his minutes definitely going up as we move forward," Linder said. "But, you know, it's just the way the rotation is right now. It's just kind of where it's at."
The Pokes and Lobos will tipoff at 6 p.m. MST.
CHECK IT OUT: The best county to live in for each state