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Surprise! Chaminade Prep Welcomes High-Flying Leaonna Odom

Leaonna Odom, who averaged 14 points and seven rebounds last season at Mater Dei, has enrolled at Chaminade Prep for her junior year. Courtesy Nick Jackson

Leaonna Odom has a habit of making jaws drop.

Whether it's by leaping and reaching both of her hands entirely above the rim, or merely showing up on a team or at a school by surprise, "Neah" tends to shock people.

But when she joins a new team at the next level -- Duke, Notre Dame and Louisville are among the schools keenly interested -- you can bet the coach will be well aware of her ahead of time.

Odom, a 6-foot-1 junior forward at Chaminade Prep (West Hills, California), has been a varsity starter since her freshman season, first at Los Alamitos (California), then at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California) for her sophomore year before the family decided to move her again.

Odom said Chaminade coach Kelli DiMuro was shocked to find out she was enrolling at her school.

"As soon as she saw me, she had the biggest smile from ear to ear," said Odom, the No. 7 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2016 class. "It was probably an exciting moment for her."

The same thing happened to club coach George Quintero of California Storm Team Taurasi when Odom joined his team as an eighth-grader.

"The minute she walked in the gym, I turned around and saw a tall and lanky kid, and she looked like a baller," Quintero said. "From the first couple of drills, I could see she could handle the ball well and was determined to be good.

"We were blessed to have this player walk in out of the blue."

Setting herself apart

Odom is not the only accomplished athlete in her family. Her cousin, Lavon Coleman, is a redshirt freshman running back at the University of Washington.

But while Coleman is thickly muscled at 5-11 and 217 pounds, Odom has always been thin. Quintero said she was 5-8 and about 90 pounds when she first walked into his gym.

Odom, who now weighs 137, is already taller than her father, Antrell (5-11) and mother, Denitta (5-9).

"My eyes are at her chin," said Denitta, who said her daughter gets her height from Neah's 6-6 maternal grandfather, Larry Benford.

Another key member of the family is Odom's 4-year-old sister, Amonnie.

Denitta said Amonnie is like Odom's "little twin."

"They make videos together, and Neah edits them and sends them to everybody," Denitta said.

"Neah has already taught Amonnie how to do a crossover dribble, and it's actually really good."

Denitta said Odom was destined to play basketball. Denitta and Antrell introduced her to baseball first, but Odom wasn't very interested.

"She didn't want to bend down to field a ground ball," Denitta said with a laugh. "Her legs were so long. ... We said, 'Forget it.'"

Basketball was a different story. Odom loved it from the start.

Even now, when she is not playing basketball, you can usually find Odom watching the sport on TV with her dad on the family couch.

"Neah is on another level when it comes to basketball knowledge," Denitta said. "She knows everything about it."

Leaving Mater Dei

Odom played last season with Katie Lou Samuelson, the Mater Dei star and Connecticut recruit who is the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 class.

But instead of staying on Samuelson's team, Odom -- who averaged 14 points and 7 rebounds last season -- was forced to leave due to a family situation. Antrell, a plumber, said his truck was twice broken into outside their home in Los Alamitos.

"I can't afford to buy new tools again," Antrel said. "We're in the process of moving.

"Neah was pretty sad -- [Mater Dei] was her dream school. But she understands."

The decision to transfer led Odom to Chaminade, a school she and her family toured before enrolling.

Rob DiMuro, Chaminade's associate athletic director, shocked his wife, the school's basketball coach, by bringing Odom by her English class.

"Everybody in my class was shocked, too," DiMuro said. "They were like: 'Who's that?' [Odom] just looks like an All-American, and that's exactly what we got."

That thought was confirmed when Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw came to Chaminade on Sept. 9 -- the first day schools could make contact with recruits.

DiMuro, who had never met McGraw before, said she may have been more star-struck than Odom.

"McGraw is one of my [coaching] idols," DiMuro said. "And she leaned in and told [Odom] that she will be an All-American in college. That kind of told me that this was a special kid."

But as good as Odom is, the transition to a new school has been tough.

"I love the friends I have there," Odom said of Mater Dei. "At Chaminade, I feel like an outsider at some points. I guess I will gain more friends as the year goes by."

Above the rim

Odom is currently dealing with a strained left ACL, but said she is feeling better every day. And it won't be long before she is once again soaring above the rim.

"There are only a few girls in the country who can do what she can do, grabbing the rim with both hands," Quintero said. "The way she jumps, she is on the verge of catching a lob and dunking."

DiMuro said she feels sure Odom will dunk this season.

"We are going to make it happen for her," DiMuro said. "That's her dream -- and for us, too, because it would bring the fans out."

Besides her leaping ability, Odom is also adept at catching even the most difficult pass.

"She has hands like a wide receiver," Quintero said. "I've thrown a football with her, and she catches every throw. She has a gift."

Odom also shines academically. She has a 3.7 GPA and is interested in studying finance.

"Neah always makes sure her homework is done," Denitta said. "She handles her business and is very responsible."

Odom is open to any college in any part of the country, and Quintero said the recruiting process will be interesting.

"She is really smart about selecting a program," said Quintero, who projects Odom as a small forward/shooting guard in college. "She wants a demanding and passionate coach.

"Those college coaches will have to be at their best to get her."