LA GRANGE – Two years ago, Omarr Gilbert was at Walther Lutheran, a school with an enrollment just over 300. Currently he is at Lyons Township with an enrollment of just under 4,000.
The culture shock of heading to a school with more than 10 times the enrollment of his previous school was the biggest adjustment for Gilbert, a senior who is currently starting at guard for the LT boys basketball team.
“I was ready, I knew it was going to be big, but it took a little to get adapted to,” Gilbert said. “It’s a different style of basketball. It’s a different environment.”
Gilbert was on the varsity team last year, but saw only limited minutes. Whether or not his transfer impacted his playing time as a junior, Gilbert is a key player this year. He is in the starting lineup and sharing point guard duties with standout junior Harrison Niego.
“He does everything the right way,” LT coach Tom Sloan said. “All he cares about is winning. He does whatever it takes to win, whether it’s on the defensive end or the offensive end. He moves the ball from guard to guard or side to side and finds the right guys. He’s unselfish. He can score. He just has a good all-around game.”
At York’s Jack Tosh Holiday Classic, the Lions won three games to make the semifinals before injuries and tougher competition caught up with them. LT lost to York in the semifinal, the Lions’ second loss at York (including a West Suburban Silver contest before the holidays), without Chris Hester, who still made the all-tournament team. Niego turned his ankle in the third-place game against Highland Park and left the game just before halftime. Gilbert led LT with 12 points against the Giants.
Gilbert played shooting guard at Walther, which currently goes by Walther Christian, due to the relative lack of numbers and size on the team. That was part of his adjustment to playing with the Lions.
“I was a little bit taller on the team, but I’m one of the smallest people on the team here,” said the 5-foot-10 Gilbert. “At a small school you have a smaller variety to pick from for size in sports teams.”
Gilbert’s past at shooting guard helps him in his current role of alternating between that position and point guard depending on the situation. Niego is a standout point guard, but is also the team’s best scorer.
“If we can, I try to bring it up to give him more scoring opportunities because he’s a better scorer,” Gilbert said. “If there’s an opportunity for him to beat somebody off the dribble and get somebody else open from being double-teamed, then that’s when he brings it up and makes plays.”
Gilbert and the Lions have had over a week to get healthy and host Oak Park-River Forest on Friday in a West Suburban Silver game.
“We got a good group this year when everybody is healthy. It’s a lot more ball movement this year. It’s just a lot more fun,” Gilbert said. “It’s great chemistry and that’s what we need from everybody, ball movement and playing together.”
LT holiday tournament scores
• LT 76, Wheaton North 65 • LT 69, Conant 64 • LT 62, Metea Valley 50 • York 56, LT 42 • Highland Park 53, LT 39