Just because he focused more on hitting jump shots than home runs the past 12 months doesn't mean Northern Iowa's Lucas O'Rear doesn't have a future on the baseball diamond once his hoops career is over.
The Cincinnati Reds selected the 6-foot-6, 240-pound junior in the 13th round on Tuesday afternoon, even though O'Rear hasn't played baseball competitively since Northern Iowa dropped its program after the 2009 season.
O'Rear, a right-handed pitcher, made 10 appearances for the Northern Iowa baseball squad in the spring of 2009, giving up nine earned runs and striking out 15 batters in 17 1/3 innings. He told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier he'll likely return to Northern Iowa to get his degree and play one more year of basketball, but he admits he's excited about the opportunity to pursue professional baseball in the future.
"I never thought the 13th round was in the equation, no way," O'Rear told FanHouse on Tuesday night. "I would like to think the Reds took a chance on me. I don't think it's really sunk in yet, kind of like after we beat Kansas. It's probably going to take a few days, but it's also going to be fun to see how far I can take this."
College basketball fans will remember O'Rear as the energetic sixth man who helped fuel Northern Iowa's Cinderella Sweet 16 run last season, but most probably didn't realize his baseball background. O'Rear, whose father Michael briefly played in the St. Cardinals organization years ago, routinely hit the low 90s on the radar gun as a pitcher in high school.
O'Rear will need to strengthen his arm again in order to regain his velocity whenever he does return to baseball full time, but from an intimidation standpoint he's already major league material.
A 6-foot-6 shaggy-haired, mutton-chopped right-hander throwing gas? Sounds like a future closer in the making.