From putting up 1,000 shots a day five days a week to lifting weights to working on his handles, 6-foot-6 sophomore Drexel guard Lamar Oden Jr. has always worked at his game.

That was apparent throughout high school, inside and outside the classroom. Oden finished his high school career with 1,259 points and led Greenforest-McCalep Christian Academy to the Georgia state finals twice. He also was valedictorian of his graduating class.

“He is a great young man who cares a lot about being a good basketball player,” said Drexel coach Zach Spiker. “And he puts in the time and the work.”

Oden’s mentality and work ethic are now leading him into a bigger role for Drexel.

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“When I step onto the court, everything changes,” Oden said. “I just try to go in and bring the energy with everything. The expectations are always at a high standard. You just have to play and be ready to shoot, ready to play defense, ready to make the right plays, and just be aggressive.”

Oden averaged 3.7 points a game as a freshman last season. He made the jump this season as a key contributor, earning a start in Drexel’s win over Coppin State on Dec. 14 and scoring a team-high 15 points.

“It was a relaxing feeling for me because I’ve been so keyed into my role,” Oden said. “And being able to be ready for that moment, I had to be ready for the opportunity presented to me.”

Oden also led the Dragons with 12 points coming off the bench in a loss to Abilene Christian on Dec. 11. He’s averaging 7.0 points in 10 games this season and is tops in three-point shooting percentage (.483) among Dragons with at least 10 attempts.

Oden comes from a family of athletes. His father played basketball professionally in Germany and his mother, Anither, ran track at Alabama State. Oden is also a cousin of Greg Oden, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 NBA draft who played just three seasons due to injuries.

Despite the athletic genes in his family and sharing the last name of the same man drafted over Kevin Durant, Oden said he feels no added pressure.

“My father just tells me to go into every game and play hard,” Oden said. “Everything will eventually come to you.”

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Oden continues to develop his game.

“In the past, I was a little more timid and scared to make mistakes,” he said. “I was worried about getting out of the game, and this year I’m more aggressive and not worried about those mistakes.

“I’m not thinking as much as I did before.”

As the only underclassman in the starting lineup, Oden credits the upperclassmen with playing a part in his growth in confidence.

“Just seeing the older guys ahead of me and how they approach the game like [former Drexel guard] Zach Walton from last year and how Camren [Wynter, a senior guard] is just always ready to play,” he said. “They’re kind of my role models.”

Oden will have to wait a bit longer to get back on the court. COVID-19 issues have postponed Drexel’s last two games, on Saturday at Temple and on Tuesday against La Salle. Drexel (5-5) is next scheduled to play on Dec. 29 at the College of Charleston.