Like any top-tier college recruit, Tommy O’Neil didn’t acquire his basketball skills overnight.
The recent St. John’s Prep graduate was bred into the hoops world, and he’s put in all the necessary time and effort to make the most of it.
His father, Gary, played collegiality at Hamilton, and his mother, Elizabeth, did the same at Swarthmore. His two older brothers, Hugh and Harry, currently star for Bowdoin and Johns Hopkins, respectively.
Each aforementioned member of the O’Neil family has shined on the court in their own right — but it’s Tommy who might possess the abilities to surpass them all.
An uber athletic 6-foot-8 swingman, O’Neil averaged a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds per game) in his final campaign as an Eagle. He’s followed that up with a phenomenal summer circuit with the Middlesex Magic, leading the AAU squad to a near flawless 21-1 record in July alone, including a trio of tournament championship crowns (first place at the Atlantic City Jam Fest, Big Apple Showcase and Prime Showcase in Orlando, as well as a finals appearance in the Philly Jam Fest).
The high level play against premier competition has garnered O’Neil nearly two dozen Division 1 offers as he readies himself for a post graduate year at Vermont Academy.
“Tommy had a good year at the Prep but when he came back to the Magic for us this summer there was a new air of leadership, strength and developed skill with him,” said Magic coach Mike Crotty. “He’s really added to his game. But the single biggest thing was that our team was so set on winning, and that came right from Tommy. They followed his lead and it just soared from there.”
As the undisputed leader for the talented Magic group, O’Neil bested his senior year high school numbers by posting per game averages of 22.4 points and 11.6 rebounds this summer.
Though 6-8, he’s not your typical big man. But in today’s evolving game, that’s perfectly alright. In fact, it’s becoming the norm.
O’Neil can shoot — his smooth southpaw stroke starts with a difficult-to-block mid-range arsenal and extends beyond the 3-point line. He can dribble, weaving through traffic like a shifty guard before using his height and strength to body his way to the rim.
He can rebound, obviously, and he has great court vision, allowing him to operate as a facilitator when needed.
His terrific work ethic and pure passion for the game has led to a continuous uphill trend in all facets of his game, and it appears he’s ready and eager to take the New England Prep School Athletic Conference (NEPSAC) by storm.
“I’m here to help (Vermont Academy) win a championship; that’s their goal every year and we’re going to have a really good team this year,” said O’Neil, who’s worked tirelessly on his game this offseason to prepare for the next level.
“I feel like I’ve improved in a lot of areas. My jump shot has gotten better and making those shots in games and having the confidence to keep taking them has been key. When I’m making my shots defenders don’t see me as a one dimensional player, and as long as I can continue to extend my game back I think things will only get easier.”
O’Neil’s also been in the weight room quite a bit which appears to be paying off, and he’s learned a thing or two from perhaps the greatest player to ever don the Prep white-and-blue sleeveless: current NBA guard Pat Connaughton. The duo has gotten some workouts in together this summer.
It’s only August and O’Neil still has a full year of prep school to ball out, but he’s on the right track in terms of recruitment. He’s received offers from D1 programs such as Brown, Siena, American, Holy Cross, University of Vermont, Columbia and most recently, Ivy League power Harvard.
“That one was awesome,” O’Neil said of his recent Harvard offer. O’Neil carried a 3.9 GPA at SJP and is considering a career in politics or business.
Still, there’s no rush in making a decision just yet, and you can bet O’Neil will take his time to weigh his options. Until then, he’ll continue to let his game do the talking this winter.
“Tommy’s a very focused person as is and that’s gone into over drive the past couple of years,” said Crotty. “He just got better and better as the games got bigger. I’m excited for him; he’s got a very bright future ahead.”