When you hear the name O’Bannon, it’s almost impossible not to conjure images of UCLA fans celebrating the school’s 1995 national championship, when the Bruins were led by brothers Ed and Charles O’Bannon. Today, the next generation of O’Bannons are in full flow, with Charles “Chuck” O’Bannon Jr. at the helm. Now the younger Charles is taking a page from his uncle’s book, emerging as the latest O’Bannon to earn McDonald’s All-American honors.
“It’s a dream and an honor to be playing in this game,” the youngest O’Bannon told USA TODAY. “I always dreamed of playing in this game. I’m looking forward to the whole week of events in Chicago and really experiencing everything.”
Experiences are something that O’Bannon Jr. can draw on. In addition to the obvious influence of his father, O’Bannon Jr. is close with his famous uncle. And while he has intentionally kept away from any connection with the NCAA-focused lawsuit for which his uncle is a lead plaintiff, he’s always been interested in any advice either of his famous relatives has for him in all other areas.
That included recruiting, where O’Bannon Jr. shocked many onlookers by committing to UCLA’s hated crosstown rival, USC. According to O’Bannon Jr., no one who has witnessed the relationship between himself and his father should have been surprised by the decision; it was always up to O’Bannon Jr. from the beginning.
“I think the biggest thing about my recruiting was that my father was there for me the whole step of the way, and was there giving me support and advice,” O’Bannon Jr. said. “He never pushed UCLA on me, even though I think everyone thought he would. He wanted what was best for me.”
That apparently turned out to be USC, where O’Bannon Jr. will attempt to make his own legacy, perhaps by following in the stylistic footsteps of the former McDonald’s All-American whom he most admires: “Kobe Bean Bryant, end of story.”
You try to break that news to his uncle.
Or perhaps O’Bannon Jr. can do that, too. He prides himself on being a loquacious basketball player, much more in the model of his father than his uncle, even if it may come out more in a bowling alley than on the court; O’Bannon Jr. is an avid bowler who has rolled a 220 game.
Now that he’s headed to Los Angeles, after his senior year with a brief trip to Chicago in the offing, O’Bannon Jr. is also ready to make his mark for his city, first on the basketball court, and then in any way life takes him.
“I always feel like I’m representing Vegas,” he said. “Las Vegas isn’t a huge sports town, so whenever someone really achieves something there it’s a big deal.”
It seems safe to say that O’Bannon Jr. has achieved something already, with plenty more on the way.