Odell Cleveland becomes the 12th member affiliated with the men’s basketball program to be inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame.
Cleveland, a 6-3 forward from Charleston, S.C., holds the distinction as being a member of the men’s basketball team that claimed the school’s only national title any sport, as the 1981-82 USC Spartanburg Rifles posted a program-record 27 victories en route to the NAIA national crown.
During his two seasons as a Rifle after transferring into the program from Lake City Community College, Cleveland would prove to be the final piece to the championship puzzle. Cleveland completed his inaugural season in the “Hub City” averaging 11 points and four boards per game during the 1981-82 season.
Though held scoreless in the 51-38 Rifle national title win over Biola, Cleveland proved to be a key figure on the boards, bringing down five rebounds in the win. He epitomized the type of player that every team needs to win a championship, certainly relishing in his role as being the team’s physical presence in the post.
“He has no regard for his physical welfare, bloody knees and elbows were his badge of honor and once he got the ball inside...well have you ever tried to stop a bull who has already made up his mind on something,” said former legendary USCS head coach and Athletics Hall of Fame member Jerry Waters of Cleveland’s style.
Coach Waters always placed a great amount of confidence in Cleveland’s abilities and that was especially true heading into Cleveland’s final season with the Rifles in 1982-83 when he served as team captain.
One of the aspects of Cleveland’s game that was most impressive was his reliability at the charity stripe. Cleveland’s 138 free throws made in the 1982-83 season ranks him sixth on the school’s all-time single-season chart, while his 194 attempted charity shots puts him fifth in that category. During his final campaign (1982-83), Cleveland was able to help the Rifles to a 21-9 final record and was named Honorable Mention All-District Six.
Cleveland and his wife of 25 years, the former Beverly Richardson, currently reside in Greensboro, N.C., where he works as an instructor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, as well as the President and CEO of a faith-based, non-profit Welform Reform Liason Project. Cleveland has written a book on the subject, titled Pracademics and Community Change. The couple has three children: Tecumseh 20, Adrian 27 and Calvin 22.