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Benet's Sean O'Mara (pictured in December) has the Redwings flying out of the gate this season. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media

Benet junior Sean O’Mara had every reason to struggle at the start of the basketball season, given that when practice started in mid-November, he was on a wholly different field.

The 6-foot-9, 235-pound O’Mara anchored an offensive line that helped the Redwings’ surprising 11-2 state playoff run. Benet’s Class 7A state semifinal appearance nullified O’Mara’s basketball preseason.

“I played our last football game against Lincoln-Way East [in the Class 7A semifinals] on that Saturday, I practiced the next day for the first time, a Sunday, and our first basketball game was the next day,” O’Mara said.

O’Mara made a stunning transition to basketball. He has shot out of the gate, demonstrating his impressive skill set, while a rapidly improving as a defensive presence. For his sterling play, O’Mara is the Chicago Sun-Times Athlete of the Week.

O’Mara helped the Redwings to a second-place finish at the Oswego/Naperville North Hoops for Healing tournament, and was just getting warmed up. He capped a remarkable week by leading the Redwings (6-1) to upset victories of previously undefeated York and making the winning free throw in Benet’s 37-36 victory over Curie and its 6-9 big man, Cliff Alexander.

He outscored and outrebounded Alexander, and had 14 points and five rebounds in the upset of York.

In between, O’Mara scored 30 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Benet’s victory over Ridgewood on Friday night. The scoring mark tied his career-best.

“We have great guards, we play well together and they know how to look for me,” he said.

He made the transition from football appear seamless, though it was not without some difficulty.

“Football was very helpful, especially physically and for my strength, but it was not so much for my conditioning,” he said. “In football, it’s such a different game, it’s 50 six-second bursts. It definitely took me some time to get my [basketball] rhythm back.”

O’Mara emerged as a major player at last year’s Proviso West tournament.

He scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Benet nearly upset eventual tournament winner and Class 4A state runner-up Proviso East in the quarterfinals.

“He’s going to be a great one,” Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce said after that game. “He already has great fundamentals and excellent footwork.”

O’Mara has also shown the ability to step out and hit face up jumpers. “He has already expanded his game,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “He spent a lot of time in the summer working on his shot.

“I could talk about him for two days. If he continues to progress, he has a chance to be a really good player.’’

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