May 7, 2015

O'Reilly to Bison up

Kevin McCarthy

Whoever said "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" was wrong and Matt O'Reilly is living, breathing proof. Now, he's officially headed to Bucknell University (PA).

photo of Matt O'Reilly

O'Reilly is currently receiving his mail on Cloud 209 as Cloud 9 became but a fleeting memory right after putting his signature on a national-letter-of-intent. The background: “In the summer, I wanted to commit to Bucknell but another player had committed before me, leaving them with no scholarships. They still wanted a shooter and the commit was a point guard.”

However after yet another successful season, Bucknell Coach Dave Paulsen left for George Mason and was replaced by Nate Davis. Stoked by a couple of personal resources, the O'Reilly-Bucknell pairing began to gain momentum. City College of San Francisco Coach Tom McNichol, a Bucknell graduate and the 1978 captain of the basketball team, advised Davis and his new staff that “O'Reilly is available, talk to him.” Pat Flannery, a legendary Bison basketball coach who retired in 2008, also chimed in positively in pursuit of O'Reilly. With a scholarship now available, Davis and Company did just that.

There was a proverbial meeting of the minds, with both parties affirmative. “I really got a warm feeling about Bucknell. It's as high an academic institution possible where you can get a scholarship. It's unbeatable, it felt like the right place to me. Everyone I talked to loves the Bucknell coaches.” What also sold O'Reilly is ‘they don't want to just keep BucknellU on top of the Patriot League (four titles in seven years) and beyond that, but they want to get one or two games into the [NCAA] tournament.’”

O'Reilly continued, “I had some injuries and it was heartbreaking when everything looked bad but it came all the way around. It's miraculous. God has a plan. When I was there, I played in open gym. The players are quality guys who love the game of basketball and play the right way, unselfishly. They were passing me the ball and I was just a recruit. I really gelled with the guys so I knew that was where I wanted to be.”

O'Reilly planned on majoring in Marketing, Innovation and Design, a part of the School of Management but no space is currently available so it's likely he will choose Economics instead.

He'll be arriving for good in August but hopes to be part of a team camp in late July.

The other element in O'Reilly's young basketball tenure worth noting is his move from playing at Campolindo High to Prolific Prep as a senior.

“I wanted to play at the highest level to get the maximum amount of exposure possible,” he explained. “I had trouble at times with me not being physically superior but it make you mature and figure out different ways of competing. Yes, it was upsetting that I wasn't a part of it [Campolindo making it to the state championship this year] but I was there at many games, chanting and cheering.” He still attends high school at Campolindo.

“In the end, I don't regret it [the change in uniform]. Prolific Prep was super at preparing me for the college level. The guys I went up against everyday in practice and games really helped me improve as a player. I never would have met so many great people or traveled the country playing basketball. I'm going to my dream school, they got to go to state, in the end it was good for everyone.”

So what will Bucknell fans see next season from O'Reilly? “Aside from my shooting, on the court, I'm a little edgy. I'm an extremely competitive guy, very fiery with a never-ending engine. I enjoy making everyone around me more competitive.”

His father, who played at Princeton, coached earlier at Campolindo and O'Reilly remembers sitting on the bench when he was 2 1/2 months old. “I was there at every game. It was a great learning environment for me when I was young.”

“I've never had a better time than when playing basketball. I can be at home and I'll hear someone down the street dribbling. I immediately put on my shoes and go out. I would love to be involved in basketball for as long as I can whether that be playing professionally or coaching.”

But first comes four years playing at Bucknell and who knows where the bouncing ball will carry him after that.

Make that three after his signing with Bucknell.