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Unsigned Roughriders pick opts to try the NBA

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In negotiations, it is always good to have a fallback position — and Saskatchewan Roughriders second-rounder Matt O'Donnell and his agent have come up with a doozy.

David Naylor reported late Tuesday that the 6-foot-11, 340-pound offensive tackle, who had some NFL interest prior to being taken by the 'Riders, is working out for the NBA's Boston Celtics, another fanatically beloved franchise which wears green. Either it's a risk worth taking for the big man or one hell of a stalling tactic to employ while the NFL lockout drags on ad nauseam. From TSN.ca:

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.

There's a history of converted basketball players succeeding on the gridiron. Toronto Argonauts cornerback Byron Parker went to Tulane on a b-ball scholarship and star NFL tight end Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers played hoops at Kent State before being signed as an undrafted free agent. Having one go the other way is unusual, but every June, you usually read about NBA teams trying out some rough diamond of a big man. That's part of why the NBA has the D-League.

O'Donnell not having played university basketball probably isn't that big a deal. By playing football at Queen's, where he helped the Golden Gaels win the Vanier Cup in 2009, he was in a much more competitive atmosphere than he would have been with the Kingston, Ont., university's men's basketball team, which is usually mid-pack at best in the OUA East division.

That's not to say O'Donnell necessarily has the tools to play pro basketball, beyond his size and aggressiveness. When he played against NCAA competition at the East-West Shrine Game in January, his footwork looked noticeably slow even in a layperson's eyes, and quick feet is a must in basketball. That being said, what does he have to lose? The CFL will still be there over the next year or two.

Besides, Boston fans would love a rough-and-tumble player with an Irish surname such as O'Donnell.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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