Roughriders' O'Donnell has tryout with the NBA's Celtics

Dave Naylor

5/31/2011 9:47:46 PM

CFL teams are used to having draft picks hold-out while entertaining hopes of playing in the National Football League.

But the NBA?

Well, that appears to be the case with Matt O'Donnell, the 6-foot-11, 340 pound offensive lineman from Queen's University whom the Saskatchewan Roughriders took with the 15th overall pick in the recent CFL Canadian draft.

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.

O'Donnell was one of two Canadian players invited to play in the East-West Shrine game back in January, a U.S. college all-star game attended by scouts of both the CFL and NFL.

While O'Donnell has the size to play in the NFL, Taman said he has never mentioned that to the Roughriders.

A call to Hardaway was not returned on Tuesday.

But O'Donnell's father, Jim, told the Barrie Examiner his son has been getting NFL interest and would like to pursue that route before signing with the Roughriders.