State Colleges

Former Columbus standout Eddie Odio returns to Miami for final time, loves his experience at Boston College

Boston College's Eddie Odio grabs a pass as Miami's Julian Gamble defends during the first half of their game at Conte Forem on Jan. 16, 2013.
Boston College's Eddie Odio grabs a pass as Miami's Julian Gamble defends during the first half of their game at Conte Forem on Jan. 16, 2013. Boston Herald

On the suggestion of his sixth-grade teacher, Eddio Odio became a Boston Red Sox fan in 2003. The next year, the Sox ended their 86-year World Series championship drought.

“That hooked me into the city,” said Odio, who named the family dog “Fenway” and had a photo of the famed “Green Monster” painted on his bedroom wall. “There was just a magic about the team and the city.”

Odio visited Fenway Park for the first time during his junior year of high school at Columbus, making the pilgrimage as part of his recruiting trip to Boston College.

It should come as no surprise that Odio ended up signing with BC, and, on Saturday at 4 p.m., he will play at the Miami Hurricanes for the final time of his collegiate career.

A 6-8, 210-pound forward, Odio has had some ups and downs during his college career, coping with a tough family issue and adjusting after the coach who recruited him was fired.

So far, he has started 28 of his 98 games, including five this season, and those numbers would likely be higher had it not been for an injury.

Odio was a starter this season until late November, when he took an inadvertent elbow from teammate John Cain Carney at practice. The resulting concussion caused Odio to miss three games and lose his starting job.

“He got a black eye, but it made him look good,” joked his father, Cesar Odio, 56. “It made him look tougher.”

Cesar, who led Miami Dade County in scoring as a Columbus senior and went on to win a Division II national championship as the team captain at Florida Southern, knows all about toughness.

He has twice beaten leukemia — first in 2008, and then in 2012. During the second battle, Eddie was with his team in Spain while his father was receiving a bone-marrow transplant.

But Eddie said that even if he had thought about transferring to be closer to his home, his father would not have allowed that even as a topic of conversation.

“He never wanted me to worry about him,” Eddie said. “He’s a tough guy.

“When we would visit [at the hospital], even if he wasn’t having a good day, he was still smiling and telling jokes. Watching him battle back has helped make me a better person.”

Eddie was already an all-star person, according to his proud father. Eddie, a history major, is scheduled to graduate in May and wants to stay in Boston long term, including getting his master’s degree in the city.

It’s possible Eddie ultimately becomes a coach, just like dad. Cesar spent nearly three decades as a head coach, including 18 at Barry University and seven at Miami Dade College. He now works as Barry’s assistant director of athletics.

Eddie, meanwhile, has had some big moments at BC, twice making ESPN’s Top Ten Plays after sensational dunks against Duke as a sophomore and Florida State last season.

Odio came to BC as part of highly promising seven-player recruiting class. The Eagles went 9-22 during Odio’s freshman year and improved to 16-17 during his sophomore season.

But when the Eagles slipped to 8-24 last season — including a last-place finish in the ACC at 4-14 — head coach Steve Donahue was fired.

“That coaching staff was awesome,” Odio said. “But we all understood why [the firing] happened.”

Odio said new coach Jim Christian has given all the guys on the team “an opportunity to fight” for playing time.

So far, Odio is averaging 2.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 19 minutes per game. He has also gained at least 15 pounds from his listed freshman weight of 195.

“He’s a role player — a screener, rebounder and defender,” his father said. “He can bench press 275 pounds. He’s gone way beyond anything I ever did.”

Eddie said he feels blessed to have been able to compete at an Atlantic Coast Conference level while attending his dream school. But there are a couple of things he would still love to mark off on his check list, including an NCAA Tournament appearance and a victory over the Hurricanes.

The Eagles (7-6 overall and 0-2 in the ACC this season) have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2009, and BC is 0-5 against Miami since Odio joined the team.

Two of those losses were at Miami, and both were blowouts as the Canes won by a combined total of 49 points.

“Our team hasn’t played well at Miami,” said Odio, who said he can find Café Bustelo in Boston but not Cuban food. “It would be a big win, especially to do it in front of friends and family.”

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