Somewhere in all the excitement of football's Signing Day extravaganza, I had pretty much lost track of Herb Sendek's quest for a player to complete his class of 2003. With rumors that Linas Kleiza was all but done for Quin Snyder's Missouri, I had resigned to the thought that the scholarship would be carried over to 2004. I was wrong.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mike O'Donnell gave his commitment to Herb Sendek to play for North Carolina State University. Largo Coach Phil Price told us how it happened. "Mike took an unofficial visit to NC State to watch a practice in November. His parents and him were up in that area, so they stopped by and visited. Mark Phelps has called for months to check in and to see how things were going. We had a real good game recently and sent a tape up there. Coach Sendek came down and watched him play on Tuesday night. He offered Mike on the phone Wednesday. Mike told him he needed to talk things over with his parents. We called him back Wednesday around 6:00 to let him know he had accepted." And there it was. NC State's "Signing Day Surprise"!
O'Donnell made a big splash on the national scene in the summer of 2002. After a good Nike Camp performance and a sound week at the AAU Nationals, the recruiting attention came Mike's way. Mid-Majors and Majors alike. Florida's Billy Donovan thought enough to offer O'Donnell in August with a couple of stipulations. 1) He would spend the 2003-04 season at either Hargrave or Fork Union Military Academy. and 2) He was likely to redshirt his freshman season in Gainesville.
While the offer was originally accepted by Mike shortly after the 2002 summer sessions, second thoughts and a little time gave him reason to rescind his verbal. The thought of prepping a year then redshirting another was just too long to sit. "Mike committed to Florida last year" said Coach price. "They wanted him to redshirt so he decided to put his name back out there in November."
The suddenness of the announcement caught many Wolfpackers including myself by surprise. Mike O'Donnell is not a household name in Raleigh so I asked Coach Price and Boca Ciega High School opposing Coach Randy Shuman for their impressions.
I asked Price to tell me what kind of player the Wolfpack would see next year when Mike suited up in the Red and the White. "He is your basic old style point guard. John Stockton is his hero. He runs the floor well at the point. He is a great shooter and very good ballhandler."
Coach Shuman had some high praise for the Largo point guard as well. "He has developed over the last four years. He is a solid player with a great understanding of the game. He is very heady. He puts himself in a position to make plays defensively. He sees the game well when he plays. I have seen him for the last four years and he has really blossomed. I am happy for him."
Coach Shuman continued. "He lit us up the other night for 33 points. He has improved his shooting range. He can step back and make deep threes now."
In a preseason basketball preview, another opposing coach, Dave Redding from Northeast talked to the St. Petersburg Times about his competitor O'Donnell. "He plays well against everybody. Whether it's an elite or a national team or the best team around here, he has a good game. No one can make him look bad. No one can take him out of his game. There's not a lot of those guys around."
Former NC State recruit Mustafa Shakur agrees with the three coaches about Mike's abilities. He thought Mike was one of the best Points he played against in the summer of 2002.
After watching O'Donnell this summer, the Insider's Dave Telep thinks he will make some threes for the Pack. He also looks for him to provide some much needed depth at the guard position for NC State.
It appears that NC State's 'Signing Day Surprise' has all the tools to be a very good player for the Pack. The coaches, opposing players and recruiting analysts all seem to agree on his abilities. So does Coach Sendek, who obviously came to the same conclusion. O'Donnell can play!
O'Donnell is currently averaging 21.7 points, 5.9 assists and 5.2 steals per game.