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CAMPUS ANGLE

O’Neil lifting his hoop game, and Bowdoin’s

Bowdoin College
Lexington’s Hugh O’Neil credits an emphasis on conditioning, especially lifting, with his improved play.

Bowdoin College
O’Neil was shooting at a 54.8 percent clip through 14 games this year.

Consistency has been the name of Bowdoin basketball junior center and captain Hugh O’Neil’s game.

The former Lexington High and Philips Exeter Academy standout had a breakout sophomore season, averaging ten points and 9.8 rebounds per game. His rebounding totals and 56.8 shooting percentage ranked second in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.

This season, the 6-foot-7, 224-pound O’Neil was the NESCAC’s co-leader through 14 games with 9.6 rebounds per game and was also averaging 10.2 points per game and shooting at a 54.8 percent clip.

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“Hugh is a student of the game and one of the hardest workers I have ever coached,’’ said Bowdoin head coach Tim Gilbride. “He moves his feet, runs hard and has great anticipation and determination on the boards.’’

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Bowdoin was 10-4 after a Jan. 12 loss to Trinity, despite a career-high 17-rebounds by O’Neil.

A government and legal studies major, O’Neil, 21, was a Middlesex League All-Star and recipient of Lexington High’s Harry Laye Award as the basketball team’s most valuable individual. He was a volleyball and basketball captain at Lexington and a volleyball captain on Exeter’s New England championship team as a post-grad.

His brother, Harry, is a sophomore forward on the basketball team at Johns Hopkins and his parents, Elizabeth and Gary, played varsity basketball at Swarthmore and Hamilton College, respectively.

Another brother, Thomas, is senior varsity basketball captain and forward at St. John’s Preparatory School and his sister, Maggie, a sophomore, is a varsity basketball forward at Lexington High.

Q. How have your parents influenced your progress as a basketball player?

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A. Although basketball has always been a big part of our family, it was never forced on us. We always had the choice to pursue sports we liked. They do have an extensive basketball expertise and won’t hesitate to offer support and constructive criticism. They support us win or lose.

Q. What was it like to play with your brother in high school and now see his progress in college?

A. We had two varsity seasons together at Lexington and had a great bond. He vowed to come back from an injury late in my senior season and he lifted us into the state tournament and scored 29 points in our loss to Lynn English. I was very proud of that and because he’s battled other injuries in college to make it into the rotation.

Q. How do you account for your improvement at Bowdoin?

A. Strength and conditioning, especially lifting. I came to Bowdoin with a good shooting touch and leaping ability but I wasn’t as strong as the other centers in the NESCAC and got pushed around a bit.

Q. What was your reaction to being elected captain by your teammates?

A. It solidified the confidence and trust my teammates had and have in me and it made me more determined. But it’s just a label and what you do is more important.

Q. What did you do last summer?

A. I had an internship at the Boston office of Senator Edward Markey. I did office tasks and research and interacted with constituents. We also walked together at the Boston Pride Parade, where I carried the Pride flag.

Q. What do you hope to do after graduation?

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A. The internship sparked my interest in public service and I hope to repeat it. I also plan to attend law school. My mom is in her second year at New England School of Law and that has inspired me.

Q. In what way has volleyball made you a better basketball player?

A. Physically, volleyball requires a large amount of jumping off both feet and rebounding requires a similar motion. It has definitely helped.

Q. When did you realize you had the potential to play college basketball?

A. When I had a growth spurt my junior year at Lexington. I originally wanted to go to West Point, but my coach at Lexington, Reggie Hobbs, felt I could play basketball in college if had a post-grad year.

Q. How was that season at Exeter?

A. Our coach, Jay Tilton, was part of my transition from the wing to being a rebounding interior player, and his high-energy practices had a lasting impact.

Q. You played three seasons of AAU basketball with the Middlesex Magic. How important was that in your development?

A. I played with them at age 16 through 18 and my coach, Michael Crotty, expected the best from me on and off the court.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com