By Tom Robinson
Leo O’Boyle made sure he did not let himself get caught between positions while straddling the dual roles of high school/AAU standout and college prospect.
O’Boyle concentrated his off-court workouts on making himself physical enough to battle college big men in the paint and mobile enough to defend on the perimeter.
At the same time, O’Boyle continued developing his game, refining the skills of a versatile all-around prospect who made a verbal commitment Tuesday afternoon to accept a scholarship offer from Lafayette College.
“I just tried to work on my strength and quickness,” O’Boyle said. “If I have to play in the post in college or, even still in AAU, against the big boys, I needed to be physically ready to play.”
The 6-foot-8 Scranton Prep senior and JB Hoops Callahan forward consistently mixed that ability with his outstanding shooting range and touch during an impressive spring and summer that gained him 10 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I scholarship offers.
“Leo’s biggest jump came in the last year and a half as far as understanding the game and playing,” JB Hoops/Backcourt Hoops owner John Bucci said. “That had a lot to do with (coach) Bill Callahan. Bill got Leo to understand, ‘you’re not just a shooter’. If you’ve got smaller guys on you, take them into the lane and post them up. Back guys down and take a short jumper.
“Billy really got Leo to reach down inside himself and find it as an overall player. When you saw him play this summer, you saw an ability to go inside, an ability to go outside. That’s what made him attractive to a lot of coaches.”
The attention O’Boyle received from college coaches made the recruiting process more difficult, he said, than he expected.
“It was a little overwhelming at time,” he said.
O’Boyle fit in unofficial visits to Holy Cross, Columbia, Colgate and Lafayette and an official visit to American while also considering offers from Colgate, St. Francis (Pa.), New Hampshire, Albany and New Jersey Institute of Technology.
The quarterback on Scranton Prep’s defending district and divisional championship football team, which has its second game Friday, O’Boyle said he had a goal of completing the process by the end of this month.
The impression Lafayette and its basketball program made on him allowed O’Boyle to finish a few days ahead of schedule.
“I just feel like it fits me,” said O’Boyle, who will select a business-related major. “The coaching staff is a good group of guys and I really like the campus. It reminds me of the University of Scranton a little bit.
“And, I think there’s a good chance to play there.”
Lafayette, which is in Easton, is led by Fran O’Hanlon, who will be entering his 24th season this fall and is the only coach with more than 300 overall career wins while coaching at a Patriot League school. The Leopards went 7-11 in the Patriot League, which added basketball scholarships as an option in 2013, and 10-21 overall last season.
“From my conversations with Fran O’Hanlon, they were recruiting a basketball player,” Bucci said of O’Boyle, who could potentially fill various position(s) in college. “They feel he can do a lot of different things for their program.”
Leo will follow another former JB Hoops player and Scranton Prep graduate, older brother John, into Division I sports.
John O’Boyle made it as a walk-on at Fordham University in football as an undersized (6-foot-2, 252 pounds) defensive lineman and now has made the team at the University of Miami in Florida for his redshirt senior season while there in grad school.
As John was preparing to pursue college athletics, he saw his younger brother developing into a future scholarship athlete.
“I really saw it probably when he was in seventh and eighth grade,” John O’Boyle said. “He really started separating himself from everyone and that’s when he also got his height. That didn’t hurt at all.
“ … Having friends who had played Division I, like (JB Hoops alum) James Fives, I really saw similarities in their work ethic and their game.”
Bucci saw it as well and moved Leo O’Boyle up to play on older AAU teams.
“We don’t do it with a lot of kids,” Bucci said. “What we look for is a special kid; a kid who is a bit more mature; a kid who has what I consider a really good work ethic; and a kid who can handle not being successful as he moves up, because it’s hard.
“Leo was able to demonstrate all those things to me.”
O’Boyle also demonstrated patience in his high school career, working his way up in a Scranton Prep program that was stringing to together championship seasons. He played sparingly as a freshman and spent most of his sophomore as a key reserve before joining the starting lineup at playoff time because of an injury to a teammate.
“He understand that it was a real good program and he had to wait for his time,” Bucci said. “I won’t say it was easy for him, but he showed a lot of maturity in the process.”
O’Boyle went from a part of the rotation as a sophomore to the guy the Scranton Prep offense was built around as a junior. He averaged more than 20 points per game for the District 2 Class 4A champion Cavaliers, earning second-team Class 4A all-state honors from Pennsylvania Sports Writers and all-District 2, first-team recognition from NEPABasketball com.
“I kind of knew it a bit because Wes Simons and I were going to be the only real-experienced guys coming back,” O’Boyle said. “But, also coach (Andrew) Kettel used to remind me to just keep playing hard and my time would come.”