It took him three quarters, but C.J. O’Grady finally found his groove in the fourth quarter against Springdale.
However, it wasn’t enough, as Fayetteville lost 50-48 at home to rival Springdale. The three-star tight end and Arkansas commit, who is playing basketball during his final semester of high school, finished with 10 points – six of which came down the stretch.
“It always hurts, but in the end, losses happen,” O’Grady said. “To me, they make me play better the next game because I (learn from) it and it carries over.”
He also had two rebounds, one assist and one steal.
O’Grady’s improvement as the game progressed was a metaphor for the way the season has gone for him.
Only a couple weeks removed from participating in the Semper Fi All-American Bowl, he said he was still adjusting to basketball and that his confidence is slowly coming back as he gets in the gym and takes more shots.
As for the All-American game, O’Grady said it was a great experience and gave him an opportunity to go to California for the first time. The game was played at the StubHub Center, the home of the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS.
“It was so fun,” O’Grady said. “The weather, when we got there, was all right, but while we were there, the weather was beautiful. We got to go to amusement parks. They took care of us.”
In attendance at Friday’s loss to Springdale was Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr.
His presence meant a lot to O’Grady.
“We have a great relationship,” O’Grady said. “He’s kind of like a father figure to me. He’s an awesome guy.”
That relationship is especially important with the departure of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, which came as a surprise to O’Grady.
“I didn’t know it was going to happen, but Coach (Bielema) is a smart guy,” O’Grady said. “He’s going to get it all figured out. I think we’re going to get the show on the road next year.
“I’m really looking forward to getting up there.”
O’Grady’s 10 points in the game were behind only Payton Willis’ 14.
Willis, a Class of 2016 guard who has an offer from Mississippi State and is receiving interest from Arkansas, Rice and Belmont, had a pair of assists to O’Grady on back-to-back plays to get Fayetteville back in the game after Springdale took a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
He also scored four points in the final minute of the game to keep the Purple ‘Dogs within two points.
“I just had to make some plays and the ball came to me, so I made them,” Willis said.
With five seconds left and Fayetteville – which had led by as many as seven in the third quarter – down by two, Willis had a chance to tie it up and send the game to overtime, but his shot didn’t fall.
“It sucks because we feel like we’re a great team,” Willis said. “We just gave it away tonight.”
Springdale’s Chris Owens, who has offers from Oral Roberts and Arkansas-Fort Smith and is receiving interest from several Division I mid-majors, led all scorers with 19 points. He made four 3-pointers and hauled in seven rebounds, both of which were also game-highs.
O'Grady Adjusting to Basketball
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