A Senior Year of Growth and Awards for CU Signee Luke O'Brien
Luke O’Brien exceeded expectations in his senior year. He’s going to go down as one of the best, if not the best, basketball player to ever play for Columbine High School.
He was awarded 5A Player of the Year by the Colorado High School Athletics Association. And he is now twice the 5A Jefferson County Player of the Year. He also holds the record for all-time points and points in a single-season at Columbine.
Columbine lost in the state quarterfinals to Rangeview, the team that was the favorite to win the state championship. But all in all, O’Brien was happy with how his senior season turned out.
“I thought it was really good,” O’Brien said. “Coming into the season, a lot of people thought we weren't going to be as good as we were last year. We lost a ton of seniors and then a lot of players that didn't really play varsity last year. So a lot of inexperienced guys, but we really came together as a team and I definitely took on a big leadership role. And I thought we exceeded expectations this year. So I was really happy.”
The 6-foot-8 wing thought he improved the most as a leader during his senior season.
“I was a lot more vocal in practice and stuff like that to get the team going sometimes,” O’Brien said. “Last year I was very quiet and reserved and I definitely just was more talkative on defense and just better communication in the huddle during timeouts and halftime. So just being a more vocal leader this year was definitely a step up.”
You don’t average over 25 points per game in high school just by stepping up as a leader. O’Brien also improved in other areas but especially rebounding where he averaged three more rebounds per game than his mark his junior season.
“Being more aggressive on the boards and obviously I spent a lot of time working on my vertical in offseason,” O’Brien said. “So I think just grabbing rebounds over people just because I could jump. Last year, I didn't really have that ability. So this year was definitely a perk. And I use that to my advantage for sure, especially with my length.”
The Colorado native also figured out when and how to take over games when it was needed most.
“Definitely attacking the basket and just being more aggressive and taking over games when I needed to,” O’Brien said. “I definitely felt like I was able to kind of get in my own way in parts of the game. So when things weren't going our way, I just took over games and I just felt like I was just attacking the basket better.”
In his sweet 16 matchup against Boulder, his team was down nine in the fourth quarter. O’Brien had all 16 points in the quarter and didn’t miss a shot. He hit three threes in a row and tore out the hearts of the Boulder Panthers. Tad Boyle’s son, Pete, plays for Boulder so the basketball head coach was in attendance as well as assistant coaches Anthony Coleman and Mike Rohn.
“Oh, it was awesome,” O’Brien said reminiscing about that game. “Hopefully, there were a couple of Buffs fans that saw the potential I have. And the way I worked the whole game, it was pretty intense. There were a lot of people there, which made it even better because I love playing in front of big crowds and stuff… So it kind of showed my ability to take over those games and my clutch factor ability. So I playoffs this year were my favorite out of the four years for sure.”
O’Brien has learned how to take over games but he said that ability to knock down shots late in games, that has been with him for a while.
“Sometimes I feel like it could be a gene because growing up, I always had those moments where maybe I wasn't shooting the best throughout the game and all of a sudden, the fourth quarter, I just start hitting shots that I wasn't hitting to begin the game,” O’Brien said. “So honestly, I think I grew into it, but also definitely had that sort of gene in me my whole life. So that fourth quarter in Boulder I just knew that if I can get one or two shots to go down, then I was going to be able to take over that game.”
O’Brien was knocking down shot after shot against Boulder but it wasn’t like that for him all season. He actually only shot 28 percent from beyond the arc during his senior year but the box score wouldn’t tell you the whole story.
“I honestly think I improved as a shooter,” O’Brien said. “I think a lot of people that don't really watch the games and they are just looking from afar, they see my three-point percentage like, Oh, 28 percent, that's terrible. He's not a shooter. But if you really watch the games, I'm chucking up shots from half-court after quarterer or fadeaways because of the quarters. I'm getting double teams or triple teams off screens and stuff like that. So our coaches did film and whenever my feet are set, like spot-up shots, I shot 60 percent from the three-point line. So in terms of spot-up shots, I improved significantly.”
O’Brien has continued to work on that shot so far in the off-season before he arrives on campus in June. Even though the stay-at-home order is in place, O’Brien has spent time at the park getting his shots up.
He knows Boyle and company are going to need him.