2016-'17 Season Coverage
posted: 10/2/2012 12:01 AM

SIU hits the spot for Mundelein's O'Brien

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  • Mundelein's Sean O'Brien drives on Uplift's Corey Gonore during nonconference play last season at Mundelein. O'Brien has announched he'll play for Southern Illinois next school year.

      Mundelein's Sean O'Brien drives on Uplift's Corey Gonore during nonconference play last season at Mundelein. O'Brien has announched he'll play for Southern Illinois next school year.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer


Eggs and bacon might not be so good for the heart.

But a little love is.

One of the most heart-warming parts of Sean O'Brien's official visit to Southern Illinois over the weekend was the impromptu love that patrons at a restaurant showed him when he walked in with the school's basketball coaches for breakfast.

"I definitely felt the love," said O'Brien, Mundelein's 6-foot-7 do-it-all forward. "It was pretty cool. I walked in with the coaches and I could hear people saying, 'There's Sean O'Brien. He's here for his official visit this weekend.' "

These were people O'Brien didn't know, and had never met.

But the fact that they knew him confirmed to him what he had heard about Southern Illinois and the relevance of its basketball program.

"I had been told that basketball is really, really important at the school and in the town there," O'Brien said. "I love that."

It's one of many things O'Brien loves about Southern Illinois, which is why he will be joining the family next year. O'Brien announced Monday that he has officially committed to Southern Illinois.

Widely considered one of the best shooting forwards in the state, O'Brien had his list narrowed down to Southern Illinois and Santa Clara. Northern Illinois was also in the running over the final days, and there were offers on the table from Florida Gulf Coast and Elon as well. Illinois State, Loyola, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Bradley, Western Michigan, Belmont and Lafayette were also showing interest.

"Southern Illinois was just the best fit for me," said O'Brien, a Daily Herald all-area selection last year as a junior. "I love how crazy they get about basketball, I love the coaches and the team and the facilities are really nice. Plus, I'm pretty close to home and it's a great conference."

Playing in the Missouri Valley Conference was a huge draw for O'Brien. It will be a chance for him to stay connected to a couple of high school teammates.

Former Mundelein great Ryan Sawvell plays at the University of Evansville and is now a sophomore there. And O'Brien's classmate Robert Knar has committed to play at Northern Iowa next year.

"To be able to play against two of my high school teammates twice a year is so cool to me," O'Brien said. "That's going to be a lot of fun."

Speaking of fun, O'Brien is definitely ready for his senior season to start, and is relieved that the stress of recruiting is now over.

The one tough part will be having to play without Knar, a 20-plus-point scorer who tore his anterior cruciate ligament during a summer basketball game and will be out until about mid-February.

"It's terrible what happened to Robert, especially before his senior year," said O'Brien, who has started on the varsity since his sophomore year. "I'm going to have to be ready to do more. But I had been working on that anyway. I had been working on trying to create my own shot and on having more of a scoring mentality."

O'Brien, who can bang inside with his size but can handle the ball like a guard and shoot the lights out from outside, averaged about 15 points and 10 rebounds a game for a Mundelein team that rolled up 26 wins last season. In one of his best games of the season, he notched a triple double: 27 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks.

"Sean will have to lead our team this season and I think he is up for that challenge. He'll do a great job," Mundelein coach Dick Knar said. "Every aspect of his game has gotten better since last year and he was really good last year. Sean's shot has gotten even better and he's a difference maker on both ends.

"I think he's one of the best players in the state and I think he'll do really well at Southern Illinois. It's a great choice for him."

O'Brien thinks he'll fill the same role at Southern Illinois that he does at Mundelein: utility player.

"They already have a lot of big guys and a lot of scorers at Southern, but what they're lacking is that all-around player who can do a little bit of everything," O'Brien said. "I think I'll be able to contribute in that way at Southern. I'm really excited about that."

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