CAPE BRETON, NS — He’s heard it all.
Too old. Won’t fit into their rotation. His skill set won’t work well in their system.
Mississauga native Osman ‘Ozzy’ Omar has heard the chatter in the background. It’s nothing new to him. When he was looking for a college to call home after graduating from a prep school in California, Omar was aware of the doubts surrounding him and his game. He wasn’t your typical recruit, and we was well aware of that.
“A lot of schools didn’t want me because I was older than the regular student coming out of high school,” said Omar. “I understood their worries.”
He had been out of basketball for two years after graduating high school. Still, he had his sights set on a Division I institution in the United States. He held a few offers from different programs, but once his high school lost its certification with the NCAA, the offer well dried up and Omar was left searching for a Plan B.
Omar reached out to whoever he could to get a look, and while the response was not quite what he expected, he did have one coach in particular who reached out to him for more information.
Petroziello was the head coach of the Cape Breton Capers at the time, and he reached out to Omar about playing with the program. After consulting with his friends and family, Omar came to the realization that playing in Canada may be the best thing for him at the time.
“Coach (Coach Petroziello) just believed in me and trusted that I could help out and that meant everything to me,” added Omar.
One thing led to another, and Omar was officially a member of the Capers.
The times were tough for Omar while he was trying to start the next chapter of his basketball story. When asked about the type of person he is, both on and off the court, his answer should come as no surprise to anyone who knows him based on what he’s gone through to get where he is now.
“Like many people who haven’t been given a fair chance in the game of basketball or in the world, I consider myself a worker,” continued Omar.
Defining himself as a worker is the best way to describe who he is and what he’s had to do to get where he is now. He had to put in the work, and now, he’s starting to see his work come to fruition and he’s ready to reap the rewards.
Omar was joining a Cape Breton team that went 0-20 its previous season, their first under Petroziello. That didn’t bother Omar one bit, and he didn’t see the Capers as a losing program.
During the 2017-18 season, Omar and the Capers took a slight step forwards, posting a regular season record of 2-18. While they missed the playoffs, the program started to show signs of life once again. Omar finished the season ranked 18th in the conference in scoring, averaging 11.5 points per game on 40.5% shooting from the floor and 33.9% from beyond the arc.
Continuing with their upwards trajectory, the 2018-19 season was another positive step forwards for the program. After two seasons with the Calgary Dinos as an Associate Head Coach, Matt Skinn returned to Cape Breton to become the Head Coach of the Capers in 2018-19, and he helped the team make a bigger stride in the AUS.
Skinn was previously the Head Coach of the Capers from 2012-2016.
In Skinn’s first year back, the Capers finished the year with a regular season record of 9-11, a record that was good enough for fourth place in the league standings. Their record earned them a playoff spot, and despite a loss to the one-seed Saint Mary’s Huskies in the semifinals, the season showed major improvement for the Capers.
One big reason for their success on the court was the development and play of Omar, who emerged as one of the country’s top scorers. Omar led the AUS with an average of 21.9 points per contest, a number that ranked third across the U Sports landscape.
On top of his offensive production, his shooting numbers improved from the year prior. Omar shot 48.8% from the floor and 36.7% from three-point range, and he added 4.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per contest.
Across the board, Omar made a big jump in terms of his production on both ends of the floor, and he attributes his success to his mindset coming into the season, along with what Skinn brought to the table as Coach.
“Coming off a season where as a team we didn’t have much success, I took it upon myself to do what I could and turn myself into the best player I could be,” said Omar. “That was followed up by the system Coach Skinn had for us and how free flowing it is and how there are so many options to choose from.”
“He trusted me with the ball and so did my teammates, and that just gave me all the confidence in the world.”
In two seasons with the Capers, Omar has seen the team go from 0-20 in the year prior to his tenure to a playoff team. They have made positive strides with each passing season, and they have their sights set on more this season. After picking up a win in the post-season last year, the Capers are hoping that they can put together a post-season run that replicates their AUS Championship run from 2012-13.
For Omar, the individual accolades are nice and all, but team success is the ultimate goal in 2019-20.
“We have a really strong team coming into this season and we have our eyes on winning a conference championship and moving onto nationals,” added Omar. “My goals are just to help my team win in any way I can and to add onto the season I had last year.”
With momentum at their backs from last year’s seven-win improvement from the previous season, the Capers will be looking to continue their climb in the AUS standings. A first or second-place finish will give them a bye into the AUS Semifinals, putting them one step closer to their goal of a league title and a berth at the U Sports Final 8 National Championships.
Amidst all of his recent individual success and his ascent to stardom across the U Sports landscape, Omar doesn’t forget the work that he had to put in to get where he is now. All of the trials and tribulations that he had to endure following graduation to get himself an opportunity has shown him what the Canadian collegiate system has to offer.
To the next wave of talent from coast to coast, Omar has some advice for you when it comes to the next chapter of your basketball story.
“You don’t have to go play in the NCAA to play top talent athletes,” said Omar, when asked about his advice to athletes thinking of staying in Canada. “The competition may not be at the ranks of high-major Division 1, yet, but it is definitely getting there one day.”
“As far as recruiting goes, you don’t have to go to the biggest school or biggest name. You can be a big fish in a little pond and that can be beneficial to you when it comes to how far you want the game of basketball to take you.”
As his career has progressed, he’s heard the background noise. But, as Omar embarks on his third season at Cape Breton in 2019-20, the noise is where it should be.
In the background.
He went from being “too old” and “not fitting into a system” to one of the nation’s top scorers, and all it took was an opportunity to prove himself. Cape Breton gave him that chance, and now both parties are better off because of it.
To all the naysayers out there, Osman Omar heard you, and he heard you loud and clear.
He didn’t care what was said.
He went out and proved everyone wrong.
Now, Omar and the Capers have their sights set on bigger and better things in 2019-20, like an AUS Championship.
All because he’s a worker.
– T. Bennett