Odell Winkey Jr. believed he had two options: He could work a job and provide for himself or play basketball and struggle.
“…That’s basically the toughest thing to overcome for me. I decided to play basketball and struggle because I love the game and I wanted to use that as a tool to my success,” Winkey Jr. said.
Odell Winkey Jr. hails from Baltimore City, Maryland, the Cherry Hill projects. Where he’s from, some people didn’t have fathers, some people didn’t have mothers, some people had it all and some people didn’t. So given that, people in his neighborhood had something in common. So for him, it was about just pushing those around him to do better.
Despite that outlook, people around him were into the street life. His father was as well and died when Winkey Jr. was only five years old. Basketball was Winkey Jr.’s way of getting away from something that he could easily fall into.
“Most definitely, because it’s like a get a get away from everything. A lot of people ─ it’s hard to be around something and not fall into it. Basketball was my way to not be around it. It was my way of pushing away from the streets just to separate myself from others. A lot of people wanted to do the same thing, I just wanted to do something different.”
He was also motivated to stay away from the streets by his mom who was a young mother and he felt jail or death would stress her out even more.
His journey in basketball began at Reginald F. Lewis High School in Baltimore, Maryland. He started taking basketball seriously in the ninth grade. Reginald F. Lewis was not considered a basketball school but he had to go there because it was his zone school.
He transferred to Baltimore City’s Benjamin Franklin High School at Masonville Cove as a sophomore. From there, his love for the game and his understanding of where it could take him took another step in the right direction.
“…I saw the realness of basketball. Basketball is where real people can be a family with the game so I took it from there and ran with it. Seeing that, the game it’s serious. It’s not anything to play around with so if I wanted it I had to take it seriously.”
Jimmy Little, Winkey Jr’s first AAU coach was another person that contributed to his success he has seen thus far.
“As far as people I look up to, I look up to a couple basketball players like outside of my neighborhood or I’ll look up to people in my neighborhood. The people I looked up to were doing the wrong things. They were my motivation to not fall into traps like they did. Just motivate myself and do better,” Winkey Jr. said.
Those two are people Odell Winkey Jr. gets advice from on a consistent basis.
“Just people like them. Talking to them daily and them telling me to push myself and it’s going to get rough, it’s going to get tough but you’re built for it. It’s survival of the fittest everywhere. Another piece of motivation for me was my little cousin. He honestly put me on to the game of basketball. His name is Terrell Davis, He’s a point guard at St. Frances Academy. ”
Odell Winkey Jr. played basketball at Georgia Prep Sports Academy after high school and still has dreams to go to the NBA.
“Yeah, 100 percent. That’s my number one goal and I somewhat have some type of movement, some type of group going on. It stands for 1C1M, one crew one mission, three stars believe in yourself, believe in the process it takes to be a pro and whatever God you believe in, there’s a process for everybody,” he said. “Everybody’s route is different. Some people were able to be a pro out of high school, some people never attended college. Everybody’s process is different and I know mine is different. Everybody takes a different route.”
That is his future goal. In the present, where he stands right now, he’s staring down an opportunity to play in the Central Basketball League (CBA) with the Baltimore Shuckers, a minor league team.
The team is coached by Llewellyn Smalley. The team has been in operation for five years and will have their sixth up and running when the season starts in March 2017. The team has an organizational record of 48-36 and 36-16 home record.
“Odell has a strong passion for the game and a passion to succeed and has demonstrated he is willing to put in the work to make it. On the court he has a great deal of quickness and good court vision,” Wolfe said about his impression of Odell Winkey Jr.
He will have a chance to make the cut for the Baltimore Shuckers as they will be conducting final tryouts on Jan. 22. Winkey Jr knows that Wolfe has his eye on him.
“…He just lets me know just to keep working, let’s me know that I’m playing [well]. At practices, I’m doing other stuff that he likes to see like off the ball stuff: cutting, setting screens, getting people open, rebounding, boxing out, stuff like that.”
At 5’11, 148 pounds, Winkey Jr. knows that he needs to get bigger, faster and stronger as a point guard to deal with the pace of the professional level of the game. He wants to be at 160 pounds by the start of the basketball season and at 175-180 in general at some point. The good thing for him, however, is he enjoys playing defense.
“I’d say scrappy. I think I’m that guard that can give you flashy at times, I could be a crowd pleaser at times and I can run my units when it’s time to run my units. The part of the game I love the most is to defend. I love to play defense, I love to get people rattled because I’m a point guard and I know how it feels to be getting rattled the whole night and being a headache to the opponent.”
He wants to be able to show that he can guard the bigger guards and that his size doesn’t matter. He knows that he can get hot and score at will, run the offense and get his teammates the ball when they’re open.
His mentality on the court is simple: the other player that Odell Winkey Jr. faces laces up his sneakers the same way but their stories are another thing entirely.
“I come from the struggle, I come from the slums. I want his heart. I want to be the best. I want him to fear me. I want him to go home thinking ‘is this game really for me?’ When I step out on the court, I just feel like I’m in a whole other world, like I’m in the jungle. I’m out there to take hearts. Fearless.”