There weren't many players who have improved and opened more eyes as a late bloomer this past year than Mundelein's Sean O'Brien. The 6-6 perimeter player has gone from a relative unknown among college coaches 12 months ago to a Missouri Valley Conference player.
O'Brien committed to Southern Illinois on Monday, giving first-year coach Barry Hinson his first commitment since taking over in Carbondale last spring. Assistant coach Tom Hankins played a big role as the lead recruiter for O'Brien.
After being courted by a number of mid-major programs, the decision came down to Southern Illinois and Santa Clara. The allure of playing in the Missouri Valley Conference and helping restore SIU basketball was an attraction he couldn't pass up.
"The Missouri Valley is a great conference," said O'Brien. "I will get to play against two of my former Mundelein teammates in Rob Knar [Northern Iowa commit] and Ryan Sawvell [a sophomore at Evansville]. Also, I'm a Chicago and Illinois kid, so playing close to home was a big factor. This gives the chance for my family and friends to see me play in college."
Southern Illinois added a player with great versatility. O'Brien, who has ideal size, length and skill to play on the perimeter, is just starting to tap into his potential as a player. He can shoot the ball extremely well from the perimeter.
While on his visit to SIU, O'Brien said he could sense the importance of basketball on campus and in Carbondale.
"They love their basketball there," says O'Brien, who averaged 14 points a game as a junior for a team that won 26 games. "I love the school, the players, the coaching staff. It's been a hectic time and it's a relief to have made my decision, but I'm really happy about it."
O'Brien becomes the fifth Division I commitment from Mike Weinstein's Fundamental U team.
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