Football follow-up: O'Donnell working out?

June, 1, 2011
6/01/11
12:00
PM ET

A report Tuesday indicated that a Canadian Football League draftee wouldn't report to camp because of potential interest from the Boston Celtics. In Wednesday's edition of the Barrie (Ontario) Examiner, Matt O'Donnell's father tells the paper that his son is in Boston today to participate in the team's big man pre-draft workout:
The father of former Queen's Golden Gaels star offensive lineman Matt O'Donnell says his son has a tryout with the National Basketball Association's Boston Celtics on Wednesday.

Jim O'Donnell said the 6-foot-10, 329-pound Matt O'Donnell will not report to the Saskatchewan Roughriders' Canadian Football League rookie camp on Wednesday after the Celtics asked to take a look at the Holy Cross graduate recently.

Matt played intramural basketball at Queen's, but the native of Nanaimo, B.C. — who is also a former Barrie resident — has not played organized hoops since his days at Holy Cross.

A two-time all-Canadian football player at Queen's and a member of the Golden Gaels' 2009 Vanier Cup team, O'Donnell was selected 15th overall by the Roughriders in the CFL Canadian draft last month.

"(The Celtics tryout) came about because of testing (numbers) at the CFL evaluation camp," Jim O'Donnell said. "They looked at his numbers and his athletic ability and (decided) it was worthwhile giving the kid a chance."

Jim said O'Donnell flew down to Boston on Tuesday.

Jim said Matt also is receiving "serious consideration" from a National Football League team. However, with the NFL in a lockout, teams can't sign any undrafted free agents.

Friday is a key date for the NFL lockout as arguments will be made in St. Louis for the league's appeal of a court's injunction to lift the lockout.

"Unfortunately, with the NFL being in a position where they can't sign him right now, we just have to be patient," Jim O'Donnell said.

"The kid's got a lot of options."

Asked where his son would most like to be, Jim O'Donnell said, "I think probably the NFL right now, but that's just me. He'd really love to have an opportunity to showcase himself down there. But he'd be very pleased and honoured to play for the Roughriders."

Meanwhile, the Queen's Journal tracked down O'Donnell via Facebook and got his comments on the tryout:
O’Donnell hasn’t played competitive basketball since high school but his agent was able to market his size and “physical ability.”

He said he’s been training with former NBA point guard Bimbo Coles.

“I find that my strength, size, hard working attitude and agility can stack up well after a few personal workouts with Bimbo,” O’Donnell told the Journal via Facebook.

He said the Celtics tryout is only preliminary

“They haven’t really discussed it too much [with me] at length,” O’Donnell said. “This is just a tryout and fitness test before the NBA draft.”

The Roughriders drafted O’Donnell 15th overall in the CFL draft. They also drafted four other prospects, including lineman Alexander Krausnick-Groh, from the University of Calgary.

“I told the Riders about the [Celtics] tryout a week or so ago,” he said. “They don’t mind excusing me from camp while I pursue my basketball dreams —as long as I return to them after I’m done.

“I hope to sign with them after my basketball prospects are over.”

And, finally, some reaction from the Roughriders from TSN:
O'Donnell recently informed the Roughriders that he won't be attending the opening of rookie camp this week while he pursues a workout with the NBA's Boston Celtics on Wednesday.

"He wanted to go to that workout so we said we can't stand in his way with a tryout for an NBA team," said Roughriders general manager Brendan Taman. "But it's concerning to us because when is he coming. We're moving on obviously."

O'Donnell's decision to pursue the NBA is particularly curious given that he did not play basketball at Queen's, despite being a strong high school player.

Taman said the Roughriders have an agreement in principle with O'Donnell's Washington-based agent, Jonathan Hardaway, but aren't counting him arriving any time soon.

"If he comes, he comes," said Taman.

A truly fascinating story. It will be interesting to see how O'Donnell fared against the other college prospects Boston brought to camp Wednesday.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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