The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

March 20, 2014

Courrier: Four-year players mean a lot to Mavericks' basketball

Minnesota State men's basketball coach Matt Margenthaler's voice started to crack. After collecting his thoughts, he struggled with emotion, talking about senior Connor O'Brien.

"If my sons grow up to be like Connor, I would be a proud father," Margenthaler said, straining to keep his composure at the season-ending press conference.

Minnesota State has the reputation of relying on transfers to have success, and there's some merit to that. There have been some outstanding players who have decided to end their careers with the Mavericks, after finding out that Division I wasn't the glamour ride they may have thought.

But the reason opponents and their fans get upset is that the Mavericks are very good about getting top talent into the program, program-changers who win a lot of games here. If they took transfers that didn't pan out, as with other programs, nobody would say a thing.

Yet if anyone bothers to look closer, it's guys like O'Brien and Alex Hanks who provide a continuous foundation for success at Minnesota State. They are four- or five-year guys who work hard, do the right things and lend consistency that allows Margenthaler to supplement the roster with elite talent that may only be here for a season or two.

O'Brien has quietly compiled a career that ranks with the best to ever wear the purple and gold. He redshirted in his first season, then played in 125 of 127 possible games, starting 114. His career ended Sunday with 1,216 points (22nd in program history), 813 rebounds (fourth) and 157 blocked shots (second).

His teams went 93-34 in four seasons, but if you throw out the roster implosion of 2011-12 that was no fault of O'Brien's, the record the other three seasons was 96-15. There were three national-tournament appearances and one trip to the national semifinals.

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