Three years ago, when Adem Osmani made the varsity team as a sophomore, it was easy to see that he brought an intensity and a chip on his shoulder the boys basketball team had not seen in a while. Playing forward and facing players who were much bigger, much stronger, and much older, he accepted the challenge and played a menacing defense. Even though he only averaged a little more than 3 points a game that year and the team finished with a record of 11-16, he quickly started to earn respect from his head coach Jason Rhodes.
After hitting the weight room and the gym during off-season after his sophomore year (and growing a few inches as well), he came back during his junior year with a bigger and stronger frame and as a recognized leader on the team. In fact, his leadership and dedication in the weight room encouraged teammates to work that much harder as well. On the court, Osmani did the necessary “dirty work” on the glass and hustled for the Spartans as teammate and senior sharpshooter Rashad Johnson rained three pointers from beyond the arc. The team finished the season with a record of 11-18. As a junior, Adem averaged 11.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, and 3 assists per contest.
“As a freshman, I set many goals for myself both on and off the court,” Osmani said. “I am a driven and ambitious individual. Once I set my mind to accomplishing a task, I will work tirelessly to do so.”
The team was getting closer to where it wanted to be. And midway through his junior season when his younger brother Sami was promoted to the varsity roster as a freshman, it was obvious the intensity and skill ran in the family. The Spartans began challenging teams with a long history of success and started pulling out wins in close games and stacking victories together.
“Adem just really works hard; he does all the extra stuff,” Rhodes said. “He is just a gym rat and puts in that extra effort. We noticed right away when he was playing for the Junior Spartans (Oak Lawn’s feeder progam) in the spring of 2014 that he was different. He just had this palpable intensity to him. They [the Osmani brothers] both did.”
The rare determination and grit these brothers have isn’t just a switch that can be flipped though; it filters through their whole way of life. In fact, both of them approach the classroom with the same focus, and each of them has earned number one in class rank. Adem is tied with girls basketball player Stephania Izaguirre for number one in the senior class. Their schedules are filled with Advanced Placement classes. When adding in the infectious smiles and mature personalities the two possess, it produces the whole package for exceptional student-athletes.
“I have always made academics a priority and being successful in the classroom has been a must throughout my education,” Osmani said. “Since entering OLCHS, I made it a goal of mine to lead the basketball program to a South Suburban Conference Red championship. As a team, we have put ourselves in a position to be the first OLCHS conference championship team in 37 years, and as captain it is my job to get us there.”
And the Oak Lawn coaching staff knows just how hard Osmani is willing to work to reach his own lofty goals. He never stops his motor.
“Just the other day Adem was behind the bench during the junior varsity game with his book and his iPad out doing his homework,” Rhodes said. “He is relentless about both school and basketball.”
Now in Adem’s senior year and Sami’s sophomore year, the pieces are falling in place around them. This team already has matched the 11 wins from each of the last two seasons, and it is only January. Senior Brian Adams has elevated his game and defensive effort, senior Yazan Abunajim has built on his Most Improved Player Award from a year ago to be a definite threat at both ends of the court, and sophomore Trey Ward provides heady guard play while stretching the defense with long-range shooting ability. The result is a well-rounded starting five with the potential to win on any given night.
“This year’s team has maintained a high level of focus and intensity despite the presence of adversity,” Adem said. “We have a selfless group of seniors that has embraced a team-first attitude. This has allowed for both our under and upperclassmen to contribute to the team’s success.”
The Osmani brothers are the top two leading scorers on the team, and they set the tone for each contest. It is a rare combination of skill and effort that is making things work for the Spartans. Adem is averaging 13.6 points per game and Sami is averaging 14.1.
“Adem’s leading us in rebounding, steals and assists,” Rhodes said. “He really pushes the other guys, and he is cerebral about the game. He is like a multiplier. He makes the other players around him better. He’s always talking the game, both on and off the floor. You get the feeling that even when the kids are away from the coaching staff, they are talking about what they need to do against other teams.”
It should be really interesting to see how the rest of this season plays out for the Spartans. One thing is for certain, they are going to give every ounce of effort every step of the way.