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Packers guard picks N.C. State

By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 7, 2003

LARGO -- After 10 days off with a concussion and a weekend recruiting trip to Holy Cross, Largo's Mike O'Donnell knew his legs were on borrowed time Tuesday night against Countryside.

So for one half, he drained everything he could out of them.

He had 20 points, seven steals, five assists, hit three 3-pointers and made 8 of 14 shots overall. His legs went dead after that, but the interest of Herb Sendek did not.

The North Carolina State coach saw enough in the first two quarters and called O'Donnell the next day to offer him a scholarship to play basketball for the Wolfpack.

O'Donnell returned the call and accepted.

"He told me, "You had a great first half, but the second half was kind of shaky,"' O'Donnell said. "But he realized that was my second game back after a week and a half and I had just gotten back from Holy Cross. I thought I played a good first half, and then my legs were just dead.

"I'm a little surprised that they offered that quickly, because my second half was so bad."

And so ends a hectic recruiting season for the 5-foot-10 O'Donnell, the county's best point guard. What began with backing off a commitment to Florida and on two occasions nearly committing to other schools finished in Raleigh, N.C.

"It's been hectic, and fun," O'Donnell said. "I came very close to deciding, and probably would have, at the most, made a decision in about a week and a half.

"I think N.C. State is definitely the whole package. It's a great school, and as far as the basketball, you can't get anything better than the ACC."

After changing his mind about going to Florida, which wanted him to enroll in a prep school for a year, O'Donnell initially set his sights on Butler in the fall.

Then Holy Cross got involved, and after visiting both, he decided Monday he would choose between the two.

O'Donnell is averaging 21.7 points, 5.9 assists and 5.2 steals per game. He is a rare point guard, a player who has a great handle, can distribute the ball and shoot it well from anywhere on the court.

O'Donnell, who unofficially visited the campus in November, said he will make an official visit and then sign the first chance he gets. The spring signing period begins April 16.

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