NORMAN, Okla. First-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American point guard Omar Leary has signed a national letter of intent with Oklahoma, said OU men’s basketball head coach Jeff Capel Monday. Leary will join the Sooners for the 2007-08 season and will have two years of eligibility.
The 5-10, 170-pound Leary, one of 10 first-team juco All-Americans, averaged 14.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.8 steals in 28.6 minutes per game this past season for fourth-ranked Northeastern (Colo.) Junior College. A starter in 31 of his 32 contests, the lefty also shot .482 from the field, .439 from 3-point range (69-for-157) and .796 from the free throw line (82-for-103).
Leary led the Plainsmen to a 34-2 record and a trip to the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., where he earned all-tournament honors. With averages of 21.5 points and 5.5 assists over four games (his team went 3-1), Leary was the tournament’s third-leading scorer and top assists man. He also went 13-for-30 from 3-point range (.433).
As a freshman in 2005-06, Leary averaged 10.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.0 steals a game for 30-4 Northeastern. He shot .466 from the field, .473 from 3-point distance (44-for-93) and .810 from the foul line (64-for-79).
“I’m very excited about Omar joining our program,” said Capel. “First and foremost, he’s a very good kid, has great character and is a hard worker. Second, he wins. He led his junior college teams to a combined 64-6 record the last two years and he was a very important part of their success.”
Capel continued, “He’s a young man who can shoot the ball with range, he has good speed and can change speeds, and I think he has the ability to be a very good leader at the point guard position for us. He’ll give us depth at that position and he’ll allow us to move some guys to different spots. For example, we can move Austin Johnson off the ball a little bit to see how that works with those two playing together. And there will be other combinations we’ll look at.”
Leary, who earned honorable mention All-State honors in Oregon as a senior at Portland’s Lincoln High School in 2004-05 when he averaged 20.0 points a game, signed a letter of intent with Colorado State last November. When the Rams changed coaches in March, Leary was granted a release.
“He’s a super kid and he knows how to lead a team,” said Eddie Trenkle, who just finished his first year as Northeastern Junior College’s head coach. “He knows how to be a floor general and is a gritty, tough kid who does all the little things for you. Plus, his ability to put the ball in the hole is huge. He really put us on his back at the national tournament. Against Indian Hills, he went on a 12-0 run himself by hitting four straight 3s over a span of about 48 seconds.
“He’s one of those kids who is very unselfish and does what’s best for the team. Defensively, he gets on you. Because he’s not a tall kid, he crawls up into you and makes life hard on you. He’s one of those waterbugs you hate playing against. In that regard, I think his game is very similar to that of (former OU point guard) Drew Lavender.”
Added Trenkle, “Omar’s a winner. He doesn’t lose very many games and that’s what’s going to carry him to the next level. With his attitude, he has an ability to just take games. That’s what he does the best and I think he’ll bring that toughness to Oklahoma.”
Leary brings OU’s scholarship count for 2006-07 to 11 (the NCAA limit for men’s basketball is 13). He joins high school seniors Cade Davis, Chris Early, Blake Griffin and Tony Neysmith as members of OU’s 2007 recruiting class.
Northeastern Junior College, located in Sterling, Colo., is the same school that produced former Oklahoma center Jozsef Szendrei. The Sooners won Big 12 Tournament titles during each of Szendrei’s three years at OU (2001-03), and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four (2002) and Elite Eight (2003).
Additional Jeff Capel Quote:
“We kind of targeted him during the month of April and had an opportunity to see him at the national junior college tournament. He originally signed with Colorado State, so he was a little bit off the radar. His junior college coach from his first year at Northeastern Junior College was hired by Colorado State as an assistant. That’s one of the main reasons why Omar signed with Colorado State. Then, with the Colorado State coaching change (in March), Omar became available again. He didn’t really open up his recruitment a lot because we had shown some interest. He looked at our situation and was really looking forward to his visit this past weekend. He enjoyed everything and we were able to move very quickly with him.”