Athletes are well known by their jersey number. “23” was worn by Michael Jordan and now today by LeBron James while “8 or 24” was made popular by Kobe Bryant. For Ty O’Neal, there’s a personal reason for wearing the number on the front and back of his jersey.
“I’ve always worn jersey number-1,” said the 2022 senior for the Hilldale Hornets. “It’s because I want to be the best player on the court.”
It’s more than just words that have made the 6-foot-4 power forward a game changer for his team.
“Ty has started for us since he was a freshman. He’s a skilled big guy with a good shot and quick first step,” said Hilldale coach Scott Hensley. “Just as important, he has a great heart for people in need and for children. Ty is the kids’ favorite with all the young players at our children’s camps.”
It’s a bit ironic that the crowd favorite also carries the nickname, “Big Bird”, something that started when Ty was so much taller than his classmates in the fourth grade when he played on a team named the Warriors with many of his same teammates on the Hilldale team this year.
The coach’s comments further explain the mindset of O’Neal when giving his definition of character.
“Character isn’t given to us. It’s something we build through thought, choice, courage and determination.”
As a junior, he averaged 14 points plus 7.5 rebounds while sharing the ball with teammates averaging 3.0 assist per contest. But for O’Neal who describes himself as tall, funny and caring, it’s all about the number-1, one team working together with one plan for success.
“We’re more than just 10 or 12 guys, we are a team that’s more like family. We all want what’s best for each other.”
On the court, O’Neal always draws a crowd of defenders; and often, following a game he’ll share high-fives with fans young and old alike while enjoying a watermelon sour patch and grape electrolyte drink and proving the Character Counts.
“That’s just what it means to me to show Hornet Pride.”