One of NH's top local players from the Class of 2015 has made his college decision. Robert O'Brien, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, was on all-state selection for Conant High where he helped lead the Orioles to back-to-back Division III titles as a junior and senior. He followed that up with a successful post-grad year this past winter at Cushing Academy in Massachusetts. O'Brien will be staying in the Bay State to play at the next level, as he has recently committed to play at Endicott College.
"I first started getting calls from schools after my junior year at Conant" O'Brien told the NH Notebook. "I was playing AAU in some big tournaments around the country with a team out of Mass and that gave me exposure but also local schools were contacting me that saw me play that season at Conant too. There were many D2 schools contacting me throughout my senior year and this year at Cushing. What it came down to is they saw me as only a recruited walk-on and could be on the team that way. The D2 schools were SNHU, Molloy, St Thomas-Aquinas, Mercy, Assumption and Dominican. The top D3 schools that recruited me were Endicott, Keene St, and St Joe's in Maine."
O'Brien is a 2 guard who is a knock down shooter from the outside but also has a smooth pull-up with a high release. He can also elevate at the rim and slam it down inside, he doesn't turn the ball over and has a calm demeanor on the court. O'Brien is a smart player with a well rounded game, he has good fundamentals and plays hard.
"Endicott felt like the best choice because the school is a great academic school and the coaches recruited me the heaviest" said O'Brien. "They're a strong team coming of their conference championship plus its a great campus right outside of Boston. The one game I saw them play live was their conference championship against Wentworth and i liked the style of play and the atmosphere they had in the gym."
Endicott competes in the CCC. They advanced to the Division III National Tournament this season. The Gulls were led by Kamahl Walker, who led Portsmouth High to a NHIAA D-II state title his senior year in 2011-2012.
"When I took my first visit to Endicott I met with the assistant and Kamahl and talked about everything because Kamahl also did a PG year at Bridgton and his recruitment was similar to mine and knowing he is from NH too so he was the first player I got to know on the team. He explained everything to me that I needed to know and helped make the decision easier."
Another local player who could have influenced O'Brien's decision was his former Conant High teammate Eli Hodgson. They were teammates on back-to-back championship teams in 2013 and 2014. Then this past winter while O'Brien was doing a PG year at Cushing, Hodgson was a freshman on the men's basketball team at Salve Regina.
"Salve was recruiting me early on and then Eli made his decision to go there and it was still a choice and I could go play with him" O'Brien explained. "But half way through the season he left the school because it wasn't a right fit and I figured if he didn't like it then I wouldn't."
There's no debating though that Conant was the right fit for both O'Brien and Hodgson, not to mention all of the other athletes who have come through the program and won championships. It is possibly the best small town hoops program in NH, and certainly helped O'Brien become the player he is today.
"Playing for Conant was something I will never forget and getting the chance to play for 2 state titles and win both back to back too is something that most people don't get to experience" O'Brien continued. "Also, playing for a program that is known for doing that and anything below that isn't really accepted is something special. Coach Sauce is the best coach I've played for and nobody studies the game more than he does and he has been a big part of making me become the player I am from everything he has taught me throughout the years. He would never be satisfied so even if we were playing well he would keep pushing us to improve every day and that was a very important part to why the program is so successful."
After his career at Conant, O'Brien's PG year at Cushing helped prepare him for college - both with basketball and academics.
"My PG year at Cushing helped me a lot both on the court and in the classroom" concluded O'Brien. "The NEPSAC is known as the top high school league in the country so every game we played was against high level competition and that was a good experience for me. Also, playing in practice every day against my teammates was good because every practice it is high level competition and helped me improve in different ways going up against D1 athletes. Having an extra year to get more physically ready was good to prepare me for college. In the classroom it helped me because the teachers are always willing to help and having an extra year gave me a chance to take SATs again and improve my GPA. Prep school education is completely different than public school and I think it prepared me better for what it will be like for me next year. Overall it was a positive experience for me. For other kids thinking about prep I would just say that it is definitely good because of the exposure you get and the competition level is great but playing on a team with your friends you grew up with is special and that is something that I missed a lot."
Now O'Brien is ready for his future at Endicott, and we wish him nothing but the best of luck.