Basketball is a family affair for the O’Connells

UNCW basketball player Shawn O'Connell
UNCW basketball player Shawn O'Connell
Updated: Feb. 20, 2019 at 5:53 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Basketball is a family affair for UNCW senior Shawn O’Connell, whose younger brother Alex plays for Duke.

Shawn and Alex began playing basketball against each other at a young age.

“That’s the only thing we have known since we were young,” said Shawn. “We started playing when we were 4 or 5 years old. Just a lot of competition.”

“So many times, I would go inside crying because he beat me,” Alex added. “We are all grown now, and we love each other, and we are closer than we have ever been right now.”

When Alex would come in crying, his mother, Crystal O’Connell, had a simple message for her son.

“If you are going to play with them, you have to tough it out,” said Crystal. “Shawn would say he taught them everything they know in the driveway.”

On the driveway is where their dreams of playing college basketball started.

“It was always our dream and goal when we played in the driveway,” said Alex. “We knew if we worked hard and believed in ourselves, one day it would come true.”

Now that their dreams have come true, they support each other.

“As brothers, we talk every day,” said Shawn. “We keep up with each other and support each other. When things aren’t going great, we tell each other to keep going.”

For Crystal and her husband David, who played basketball at Duke from 1973-76, the toughest decision with two sons playing college basketball is whose game to attend.

“One’s here, one’s here,” said Crystal “We just divide and conquer.”

“Every week it’s a text or call saying, ‘Hey, we are coming or we’re not coming,’” added Shawn. “There are three, four, five, six games a week that they have to figure out where to go to.”

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