Lamar Odom’s college was the University of Rhode Island. He played only one season for the Rams after attempting to play for UNLV. In his lone college season, Odom led the Rams to the first round of the NCAA tournament and was named his conference’s Rookie of the Year.
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Where did Lamar Odom go to high school?
Lamar Odom attended three high schools: Christ the King in Queens, New York, Redemption Christian Academy in Troy, New York and St. Thomas Aquinas High School in New Britain, Connecticut.
Odom had a difficult childhood in New York City. His father was a veteran who was addicted to heroin and played almost no role in his life after Odom’s youngest years.
His mother, a prison guard, died from colon cancer when Lamar was only twelve years old. Her last words to her son were “Be nice to everybody”.
At that point, Odom’s grandmother, Mildred Mercer, began to raise him full time. She helped him to get enrolled at Christ the King Regional High School in Queens.
Christ the King is a catholic school known for its legendary basketball stars. In addition to Odom, the school includes former Nets star Jayson Williams, NBA journeyman (and champion) Speedy Claxton, and female basketball stars Chamique Holdsclaw and Sue Bird among its alumni.
Odom started at Christ the King as a 6’2” point guard but quickly grew to a 6’10” forward with unique ball-handling and passing skills.Embed from Getty Images
Odom did not graduate from Christ the King, however. After his junior year, the future Lakers and Clippers star was forced to leave the school because of poor academic performance.
Odom first transferred to the appropriately-named Redemption Christian Academy in Troy, New York. At Redemption, he averaged 25 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals a game in winning the Parade Player of the Year Award.
Odom encountered trouble after the basketball season his senior year and needed to transfer again. It was then that Jerry DeGregorio became a big part of Odom’s life.
DeGregorio was a basketball coach who grew up in the Bronx. He befriended Odom’s family and helped him out when he needed a place to finish high school.
DeGregorio was the athletics director at St. Thomas Aquinas in New Britain, Connecticut. He helped Lamar transfer to the school, not to play basketball, but so he could graduate from high school.
DeGregorio would continue to play a big role in Odom’s life throughout his basketball career and went on to be Odom’s best man when he married Khloe Kardashian.
What College Did Lamar Odom Go to?
Lamar Odom attempted to play college basketball at UNLV but it did not work out, so he ended up playing one year for the University of Rhode Island.
After being able to graduate high school at St. Thomas Aquinas, Odom chose the University of Nevada at Las Vegas to play college ball. He never ended up playing there, however.
A Sports Illustrated story, a prostitution scandal and an illegal payout combined to destroy Odom’s chance of playing for UNLV.
Before he ever played a game for the Runnin’ Rebels, a story came out questioning the truth of Odom’s ACT score. The ACT is a standardized test similar to the SAT.
In order to play college sports in their freshman year, student athletes must make a qualifying score on either the SAT or ACT.
Odom’s score was publicly questioned in a story published by Sports Illustrated in the fall of his freshman year.
In addition, Odom was arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Las Vegas around the same time.
The two combined to kill his chances of playing for the Rebs. Even worse for UNLV fans, the investigation from the NCAA that followed the scandals uncovered illegal payouts of around $5000 to Odom.
UNLV Head Coach Bill Bayno was fired by the university for the payouts after the NCAA investigation was completed. Bayno would win a lawsuit against the school because the NCAA investigation had cleared him of wrongdoing.
UNLV got a one-year postseason suspension and four years of probation because of the illegal payments, which were made by a UNLV booster and friend of Bayno’s.
Suffice to say: Lamar Odom tried to play for UNLV but it did not work out for him or the school.
University of Rhode IslandEmbed from Getty Images
When Lamar Odom was denied admission to UNLV, college coaches from across the country lined up to get the Parade High School Player of the Year on their team despite his legal troubles.
Jim Harrick was the coach for University of Rhode Island Rams. Harrick got his head coaching start at Pepperdine where he led the team to five league titles and four NCAA tournaments in the 80s.
Harrick then moved on to UCLA in 1988 where he returned the program to its glory years. He led UCLA to eight straight NCAA tournament appearances including a national championship in 1995.
The Bruins lost to Princeton in the first round of the 1996 tournament in what would prove to be Harrick’s final game at the university.
Harrick was fired from UCLA because the school said he lied to the school’s leadership to cover up a relatively minor recruiting violation.
After a year off from coaching, Harrick got the job at the University of Rhode Island. One of the first things he did was set his sights on Lamar Odom.
Being the savvy recruiter he was, Harrick hired Odom’s old friend Jerry DeGregorio as an assistant coach. It was not the last job Odom would get for DeGregorio, as the LA Clippers would hire him as well after acquiring Odom in the 1999 NBA Draft.
DeGregorio was crucial in getting Odom to Rhode Island. Odom’s family had to use his father’s veteran benefits to help pay his way initially.
He was not eligible to play at first for the Rams.
The team had an amazing year in his first season on campus, however. Future NBA star Cuttino Mobely led the team to an elite eight appearance in which they upset a Kansas team featuring Paul Pierce.
Odom spent two semesters and a summer session working to become eligible. At one point, he disappeared before finals and nearly lost his chance to play college ball.
Harrick came to his rescue and negotiated with Odom’s professors to allow him to complete the coursework.
In his second year on campus in Kingstown, Rhode Island, Lamar Odom became eligible to play for the Rams.
How Good Was Lamar Odom in College?Embed from Getty Images
Lamar Odom was a really good college player and a better pro prospect in his one year playing for the University of Rhode Island.
The Rhode Island Rams were actually a better team the year before Odom played. But that is not completely fair.
Odom began playing for the team after one of the two best years in school history. That team won 25 games, made the elite eight in the NCAA tournament and featured two seniors who would be drafted: Tyson Wheeler and Cuttino Mobely.
With the loss of that class, if they did not have Odom Rhode Island would have had to rebuild. Instead, they reloaded, winning 20 games and the Atlantic 10 conference tournament and making the NCAA tournament as a 12 seed.
Odom was a huge part of that success. He was named 1st Team All-Atlantic 10 and the conference Rookie of the Year. He also drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win the Atlantic 10 conference tournament.
Odom had a strong statistical year as well. You can see his well-rounded numbers below.
After his lone season playing in college, Odom declared for the NBA Draft. He gave brief consideration to withdrawing his name but had already hired an agent, so it was too late.
It all worked out for Odom as he was the fourth pick in the draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. Elton Brand, Steve “the Franchise” Francis and Baron Davis were chosen ahead of him.
Odom would go on to play 14 years in the NBA. He won two NBA championships on a Lakers team that featured Kobe Bryant, and was the 2011 NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
Summary: Lamar Odom’s College
Lamar Odom attempted to play for the University of Nevada Las Vegas but it did not work out. Instead he attended and played for the University of Rhode Island. Odom played one season for the Rams where he led the team to the NCAA tournament and won conference Rookie of the Year.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.