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Luke O'Brien keen on making Senior Day final home appearance with CU Buffs

Mar. 1—Luke O'Brien won't leave the University of Colorado with armloads of all-conference accolades. And his name won't be left behind prominently among the Buffaloes' all-time leaders.

Yet in many ways, O'Brien exemplifies the sort of program head coach Tad Boyle has built since he was hired in 2010.

When Boyle arrived, he vowed to recruit any in-state prospect capable of playing at the power conference level. He also remains steadfast in keeping player development as the bedrock of remaining competitive from year to year.

O'Brien fits both categories. The former Columbine High standout will play his final regular season home game at the CU Events Center on Sunday when the Buffs look to keep a late-season surge intact against Stanford (7 p.m., FS1). O'Brien and Tristan da Silva will be honored before the game as CU puts a three-game win streak on the line against a Stanford club that has lost five consecutive games and seven of the past eight.

The only way da Silva and O'Brien will make another appearance at the Events Center is if the Buffs fall out of NCAA Tournament contention and eventually host an NIT game. As bittersweet as the Senior Day festivities inevitably are, O'Brien's only goal is to make sure Sunday really is his final appearance at the Events Center.

"I'm just thinking about winning," O'Brien said. "Because as respectful as possible, I hope this is my last game here. As much as we want to look ahead, the best thing for us is to focus on Sunday. That's our most important game. It's basically win or go home for us. That's how we have to approach it."

O'Brien's father, mother and sister all attended Colorado State, but O'Brien's uncle (his father's brother) was a Ralphie handler during the CU football glory days of 30-plus years ago. O'Brien committed early to the Buffs out of Columbine, and after playing sparingly for CU's veteran-heavy 2020-21 NCAA Tournament team as a freshman, he has developed into a dependable rotation player the past three years.

O'Brien's big game two weeks ago at USC — his dunk off a feed from KJ Simpson in the waning seconds of regulation helped give CU a chance to win on the road in double overtime — was his 100th game played at CU.

"Luke O'Brien has meant a lot to Colorado basketball," Boyle said. "The fact that he decided to come here, he's had a great career. It's just been incremental. He didn't play much as a freshman. Then more as a sophomore. Now he's a senior and he's an integral part of this team and rotation. I couldn't be more proud of Luke O'Brien. It's really heartwarming to me, because this place is always going to be his school. It's always going to be in his blood. He's a Colorado guy. He's what Colorado is all about."

O'Brien has mostly served as one of the Buffs' top reserves, but CU's injury-marred season has allowed him to make 10 starts this year, a total that might increase against Stanford with Cody Williams (ankle) and Julian Hammond III (ankle) still questionable. A recent hot streak — O'Brien has gone 6-for-11 on 3-pointers in five games since returning his own two-game injury absence — has raised his season 3-point percentage to .417 (25-for-60).

"Luke's versatility, his ability to rebound the ball, his ability to shoot the ball, his ability to defend — look at the job he did on Isaiah Collier in the USC game. Defensively, it was stellar," Boyle said. "He can help you win in different ways. I feel really comfortable with Luke O'Brien on the floor. And he's going to be on the floor a lot as we get down the stretch here."