Stand father and son side-by-side, and it's easy to see where Colorado basketball commit Luke O'Brien gets his 6-foot-7 frame.
But his game? Well, the father can only lament the family records his son already has erased.
"I had 38 once in a (high school) game as a senior," said that father, Steve O'Brien, who was part of a state championship team at Wheat Ridge before playing a season at Metro State. "But (Luke) already beat dad's highest-scoring game. He had 40 last year. As a sophomore."
As the only recruit currently committed to joining coach Tad Boyle's program in either the 2019 or the 2020 recruiting classes, O'Brien, a junior at Columbine High School, has grown to accept an inordinate number of eyes from Buffs Nation are trained upon him.
For his part, O'Brien is attempting to put his head down and play his game with an eye on making continuous improvements before he is scheduled to join the Buffs in the fall of 2020. O'Brien is following a family pedigree to Boulder — his uncle, Scott O'Brien, was a Ralphie handler in the early 1990s — but it wasn't so long ago O'Brien believed following in his family's footsteps was destined to lead him down a much different path.
"My uncle went to Clemson, and growing up we always went to games every single year," O'Brien said. "I thought the campus was awesome. I'd stay at a lake house with my uncle and I always thought it was just awesome.
"But it was two things (about CU) — the coaches, and the players. I know both campuses great. I know both facilities are great. Everything is like equal. But then when you get to the coaching staff and the players, I was blown away. The Clemson coaching staff was great, but it was like another level at Colorado. It was like, 'I've got to go here.'"
While the high school season never will match the level of competition O'Brien typically faces with his club program, the Colorado Miners, he nonetheless has been able to take on the best Colorado high school basketball has to offer this season at Columbine. Through Friday, seven of the Rebels' 18 games occurred against squads ranked among the top 13 in this week's CHSAANow.com Class 5A poll. That included back-to-back road games this week at Ralston Valley and Mountain Vista that showcased O'Brien's potential.
Against Ralston Valley on Wednesday, O'Brien helped lead a fourth-quarter comeback after two of Columbine's key contributors fouled out, hitting three free throws in the final nine seconds to give the Rebels a 69-66 win. With CU associate head coach Mike Rohn looking on, O'Brien played the entire game (save the final two seconds of the first half) and finished with a 9-for-16 mark from the field with 26 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists.
The Rebels struggled just 24 hours later at third-ranked Mountain Vista, but O'Brien still finished with 21 of his team's 44 points along with 12 rebounds and three steals. Heading into the weekend, O'Brien was averaging 19.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.0 assists while shooting 44 percent from the floor.
"He's a once in a career player for a coach," said Columbine coach Clay Thielking. "The drive that he has to the talent level to his body frame, he's a special player. He carries a heavy load for us obviously, but he's unselfish. He gets other guys the ball and makes the guys better, which I think is a sign of a really good player."
Assuming he arrives at CU as planned next year, O'Brien will continue Boyle's tradition of landing most of the top Division I-caliber talent out of Colorado, a ledger that includes former Buffs like Josh Scott, Wesley Gordon, Derrick White, Xavier Talton, and Dom Collier alongside current CU players D'Shawn Schwartz, Daylen Kountz, and Dallas Walton.
As the CU roster currently is constructed, Boyle has three spots to fill for the 2020 class from this year's junior class of Lucas Siewert, Shane Gatling, and Deleon Brown, though Brown's academic issues have clouded his future with the program. CU also has offers out to 2020 prospects Lamont Butler, a guard out of southern California who is visiting CU this weekend, and Ke'Shawn Williams, a guard out of Bloom High School in the Chicago area.
"I want to show my hometown that I can play, and it's great to play in your home state," O'Brien said. "I have to get bigger, obviously. I had a lot of comments when I committed that this dude is tiny. I know that. I've got to get bigger, I've got to get stronger. Probably a little bit quicker. I always want to get better at everything."