Benet's O'Mara stands with the elite
You just don't picture Sean O'Mara wearing a different kind of uniform.
Regardless of opportunities in other sports, he's basketball...through and through.
If you can't tell by his 6-foot-9 stature, you're convinced by the Benet senior's fierce dedication to the game. Almost 15 years of investment yielded a result no one would dare question.
In a basketball season matched by few others in terms of statewide talent, O'Mara stands among the elite.
In another year perhaps all eyes in Illinois would be on Benet's big man. As it is, he stands alone in the western suburbs.
After one of the most-dominant performances in recent memory by an area post player, O'Mara is the 2013-14 Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area Boys Basketball Captain.
"I'm usually not over the top with our players, but he is the best player in the western suburbs," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "I may be biased, but there's nobody around here who's as good a high school player as he is, as dominant a player as he is."
The numbers back up the statement.
Against perhaps the state's toughest schedule, O'Mara never faltered. In fact his numbers improved the better the competition.
The Xavier-bound center averaged 23 points, 13 rebounds and 2.3 assists while surrounded by four new starters. According to Benet, O'Mara graduates as the program's all-time leading scorer with 1,562 points entering the postseason.
Twenty-three double-doubles highlight his overall impact to Benet's drive at earning the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A East Aurora sectional and a fifth straight 20-win season.
"When I got here I was just another guy, which was different from when I was growing up," O'Mara said. "It was humbling, but it was good for me. I think it helped me become the player I am today."
That other uniform
With 220 pounds on his 6-9 frame, O'Mara's a pure post player making a living with his back to the basket.
It's why he chose Xavier among more than a dozen Division I scholarship offers. The Muskateers have a history of developing quality big men, a current example seen with the Indiana Pacers' David West.
If you think O'Mara honed his post game on the basketball court, you'd be half right. The other half came on the gridiron.
O'Mara, who grew up playing football in addition to basketball, was a three-year starting offensive lineman for Benet's football team.
How strange is it to see a 6-9 left tackle? To give you an idea, only two NFL players -- both tackles -- stand that tall.
It's even more unusual to see a Division I basketball player committing all four years to his high school football team. Most high-level hoops players, if they even play football at all, give it up to concentrate on basketball.
"Everyone asked me why I was playing football, but I could get hurt going down the stairs," he said. "To not play football senior year after being a starting offensive lineman for three years? First it wouldn't be right to my teammates. And second, I love the game. Why wouldn't you play a game you love?"
When Benet's football team made a surprise run to the Class 7A semifinals during O'Mara's junior year, his basketball season was briefly delayed.
The football team lost the semifinal game on a Saturday, O'Mara practiced basketball that Sunday and played in the Hoops for Healing tournament the next day.
It's not difficult to see the similarities in O'Mara's style of football and basketball. Had O'Mara chosen football over basketball, the sky could have been the limit.
"I think he could be an NFL candidate because he's so big and he can move," said Benet football coach Pat New. "He had a tremendous upside in football. But he just loves basketball first."
Grinding to the top
A known name in AAU circles from his years playing for IBA Select, three years ago O'Mara became Benet's first freshman to begin his prep career on varsity.
Before he even walked through the door, O'Mara knew he was becoming part of something special.
Seniors on that team included 7-foot Frank Kaminsky, who plays at Wisconsin, and point guard Dave Sobolewski, a Northwestern player.
Fourteen-year-old O'Mara went toe-to-toe with Kaminsky every day in practice as the Redwings burst to a 29-0 record before losing in sectional semifinals.
"When I got here I was just another guy, which was different from when I was growing up," O'Mara said. "It was kind of humbling going against a 7-footer every day. Every day he'd just beat me up and make me better. Just that one year with Frank really helped me."
A three-time Daily Herald All-Area selection, O'Mara's talents and stats gradually blossomed. Last season he averaged 17 points and 8 rebounds, meaning he added 6 points and 5 rebounds this senior year.
"It's always fun going against him, but it takes a lot of mental and physical preparation," said Naperville Central senior center Nick Czarnowski, a close friend and AAU teammate of O'Mara's since eighth grade. "He's just a natural competitor. His competitive edge is what makes him so good."
Best on best
In four years O'Mara's faced some of the best competition the nation has to offer. Last season he went head-to-head with Duke-bound Whitney Young center Jahlil Okafor and Curie's Cliff Alexander, committed to Kansas.
This season O'Mara's notched 30-point games against Larkin, St. Viator, Marian Catholic, Rich East and Rockford Auburn. He poured in 27 against Stevenson.
The MVP of the Hoops for Healing tournament and a first-team all-tournament selection at Proviso West, O'Mara was also the leading scorer in a tough East Suburban Catholic Conference.
His name may not be as well-known as Okafor, Alexander, Stevenson's Jalen Brunson and Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis, but it hasn't mattered. His play speaks for itself.
"I think Sean's every bit as good, in terms of what he brings to the team, as any of those guys," said Benet senior forward Liam Nelligan. "It doesn't matter how many guys you put on him, or what kind of defense you play. He's going to dominate."
When push comes to shove -- and he's done more than his fair share of shoving -- O'Mara's not about to back down.
And he's not hard to find right there in the post. Dominating as always.
"Coach gave me the honor of being a captain this year, and with that comes responsibility to my team and my teammates," he said. "This program has meant a lot to me, and I couldn't be prouder to be a part of it."
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