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Oak Lawn’s Sami Osmani sets records, waits on college coaches

“He should be getting more attention, there’s no doubt about it,” Oak Lawn coach Jason Rhodes said. “The kid’s a winner, and he works his tail off. He’s not going to stop working, and he’s just got something that you can’t teach.”

Oak Lawn’s Sami Osmani (0) scores against Hillcrest.
Oak Lawn’s Sami Osmani (0) scores against Hillcrest,
Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Four years ago, Sami Osmani set out on a mission to put Oak Lawn basketball on the map. Since then, the guard, who is now a senior, has become one of the most prolific scorers in school history.

Six games into this season, Osmani captured the Spartans’ scoring record.

Not that the record was even his goal.

“I wasn’t really focused on it,” Osmani told the Sun-Times in a phone interview. “What I keep staring at is the fact that we haven’t won conferences since 1984. That’s something that bothers me.”

And if there’s any Oak Lawn team that could accomplish that feat, it’s this one.

Coach Jason Rhodes has coached several good teams over the last nine years, including the 2017-18 group that won 19 games. But this one is special.

“This team’s got a little bit of a higher ceiling, and again that’s due to the experience of last season [in which five juniors were starters] and the comfort level that they have been playing with each other for so long,” Rhodes said.

The Spartans are 9-1 after Friday’s 60-51 victory against TF North. Their loss was a seven-point defeat to Hillcrest.

“It’s definitely one you wish you could have back,” Osmani said.

Osmani said he was inspired by his team’s ability to turn the loss into a positive. “At practice the next day, everyone was ready to get better and learn from our mistakes,” he said.

Rhodes has seen Osmani develop steadily over the last four seasons. The biggest improvement in his game is his floor vision.

Senior point guard Trey Ward also has made great strides, and he’s in the midst of a breakout season that no one saw coming.

“Trey Ward is taking a lot of the offensive load off of me, and we’re just playing better basketball,” Osmani said. “His confidence has just boosted with experience, the way he sees the floor, the unselfishness, [and] his shooting abilities are amazing.”

As Oak Lawn’s dual threat in the backcourt, Ward and Osmani lead the Spartans in scoring, averaging 20.8 and 19.9 points, respectively.

“They’re difference-makers for us,” Rhodes said.

Osmani’s primary goal is making his team successful, but he’s also trying to plan his future.

The 18-year-old has fielded offers from several Division III colleges, including Augustana College and Washington University in St. Louis. However, he has yet to receive any attention from Division I schools.

Rhodes believes Osmani is the type of player every college coach is looking for.

“He should be getting more attention, there’s no doubt about it,” Rhodes said. “The kid’s a winner, and he works his tail off. He’s not going to stop working, and he’s just got something that you can’t teach.”

Osmani is grateful for the D-III offers, but like any player, he wants to play at the highest level.

“It’s really frustrating,” said Osmani, who wasn’t able to play AAU basketball until after his sophomore season due to the financial commitment. “As competitive [as] I am, it’s annoying to see other kids — that I feel like I’ve played with, competed against in camps and clinics and AAU before — get these kinds of offers. And statistically, my work ethic, all these things, I feel like they’re not getting the attention that I necessarily want.

“But right now, I feel like that’s a byproduct of this season, so hopefully if we keep going, I’ll get more attention. That’s really how I’m trying to approach the whole thing.”