La Salle-Peru senior Cody O’Brien never considered giving up basketball.
Instead of moving on after not making the Cavalier varsity last year, O’Brien set out to improve himself and try again.
“I’ve been playing basketball my whole life,” O’Brien said. “I wanted to try to prove myself and go back out. I didn’t have one thought of not going out again.”
O’Brien did prove himself, and this year he made the Cavs and has contributed in several games.
“I’m glad to say Cody’s a part of the Cavalier basketball program this year,” L-P coach Jim Cherveny said. “As a kid who got cut his junior year, he’s put in more time and effort and has become a gym rat. He always found a hoop and a way to get better. I know his dad put a lot of time in with him and it’s really paid off. He’s worked his way onto the varsity team and it’s really a pleasure to have him.”
After not making the team last season, O’Brien spent a lot of time at the Illinois Valley YMCA improving certain aspects of his game.
“Last year when we had our one-on-one meeting (between me and Cherveny), he told me I was a little behind in skill, speed and strength,” O’Brien said. “So I knew what I had to improve on. I had to get stronger and faster.”
O’Brien lifted weights two or three times per week to work on his upper body and legs, and he joined the YMCA men’s 5-on-5 league.
“Playing against the men in the league, you had to be a tough player,” O’Brien said. “That helped me get used to the high speed game you have to play on the varsity.”
O’Brien also worked on his own in the gym to improve upon his jump shot and ability to get to the basket — two other aspects of his game Cherveny said needed to be improved.
“In the summer, he came to every shootout, every workout, every lifting session and just dedicated himself to the game of basketball,” Cherveny said. “He’s one of those kids who has a story to tell now to his kids and grandkids of what hard work can do for you.”
With all the work under his belt, O’Brien was confident entering tryouts this season.
“In the summer, I seemed to do pretty well. I was playing more confident than I did the year before,” O’Brien said. “(Before tryouts), I was thinking, ‘I just have to go out there, play my hardest, show them what I got and whatever happens, happens.’”
What happened was he made the team and has been a valuable member of the Cavaliers — helping make the starters better by playing well on the scout team and contributing off the bench.
O’Brien has played in four of the team’s five games this season and scored eight points in L-P’s loss to Dunlap in the Cavalier Classic finale.
“Cody brings a lot of energy off the bench with his defensive pressure and his ability to get to the rim,” Cherveny said. “He’s a great guy who just brings energy and enthusiasm to the guys around him, and I think they respond.”
Just like O’Brien responded after missing the cut.
“At first I was a little disappointed,” O’Brien said. “Everyone on the team was saying I had a good shat at making it, and when I didn’t make it I kind of decided I’d use it as motivation.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.