One of the hardest parts about growing up is discovering who you are. It’s not easy to figure out, and many don’t solve this life riddle until much later. Matt O’Leary is one of the few who cracked that riddle early. As a senior and captain of the IUPUI men’s basketball team, he’s exactly where he wants to be right now.
“One thing I haven’t struggled with is my passion. I’ve always loved it and I’ve never thought about quitting or not playing the next year,” O’Leary said.
For a Division 1 athlete, not wavering in your love for the sport is one of the biggest keys to having a successful collegiate career.
A native of Terre Haute, IN, O’Leary has been in love with basketball for 18 years. Standing at 6’8’’, he is a power forward on the court, and can post up to get the quick two- point shots. But one of the many traits that make him a unique player is that despite his height, he loves to play guard. As a guard, he loves to shoot three-pointers on the outside of the key.
“I’ve always tried to play a little bit like Dirk Nowitszki. He’s a big guy who can shoot,” Matt said. It’s worked wonders for him with an impressive shooting average of 53.2% on all shots, and 45.1% on three- pointers alone. He’s worked long and hard to get to where he’s at.
“He pushes his teammates and coaching staff to get better daily, whether at practice, weights, or in the classroom. Great leaders lead by example and that is who Matt is,” said Jason Quarles, the strength coach for the men’s basketball team.
Being a leader seems to be a family trait, as Matt credits his three older brothers, Marc, Dan, and Chris for pushing him to be the best he can be.
“They all played basketball, so I just followed in their footsteps and learned from them,” O’Leary said. “It was always fun to me, and it was something I grew up doing, and like to do.”
O’Leary dedicates a lot of time to basketball, but he also puts in the work when it comes to his studies. He has been on the Academic Advisor’s list all semesters at IUPUI ever since 2014, selected to The Summit League's Commissioner's List of Academic Excellence (15-16, The Summit League Academic Honor Roll as a Distinguished Scholar (15-16), NABC Honors Court (15-16), and CoSIDA Academic All-District 5 for the past two years.
“He is a leader on the court, but first he sets a high standard in the classroom,” Quarles explains.“He has bought in the program and seen its benefits. That is part of what makes him a great student- athlete.”
Even with all the success basketball has brought him, O’Leary is most grateful that basketball has taught him a lot about time management and that by working hard, you can get the desired results.
He isn’t sure what he wants to do once he graduates, but is planning to decide once the season ends. For now, he is enjoying his final season as a Jaguar and preparing for the Summit League tournament next month in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.