March 9, 2010
Happy Trails: Muonelo rides into sunset
Anytime a player is specifically mentioned in a scouting report for a game, that's big stuff.
Such was the case for Obi Muonelo. Before the game against Nebraska, the Oklahoma State coaching staff made it a point to mention the Edmond senior, saying to win it for Obi.
Mission accomplished. The Cowboys beat the Cornhuskers 74-55 and sent the lone senior Cowboy out of Gallagher-Iba Arena with a victory.
"It wasn't about winning for me," Muonelo said. "They're saying send Obi out with a win - it was in the scouting report! Send me out on a win. It wasn't like everybody was like, 'We need to win this for Obi.' We were just trying to win the game against Nebraska."
That may (or may not) be the case, but rest assured it was very important to the rest of his team that Muonelo left the court a winner. And it was definitely important to head coach Travis Ford, who said of Muonelo: "I think Obi will go down as one of the best players to play here. You can just look at his stats at the categories and things like that and he's finished his career going to two NCAA tournaments, so he's done a lot for this basketball program."
For a senior to walk out onto the court with his family, to take in the atmosphere of a moment that is especially reserved for him, well, that has to be unbelievably special. The memories of the day will likely stick with Muonelo forever - and stir up past moments, as well.
"It was like a real emotional game, I guess you could say, as far as looking in the crowd and seeing all the fans you've seen here for years supporting us as a team and supporting me as a player," Muonelo said. "I remember my freshman year when I broke my leg, I came out to the crowd in Oklahoma City and we were playing Pittsburgh. I was really down on myself because we were having such a good season. But I got a standing ovation from the crowd and that really helped me because I was feeling bad. I'll never forget these fans and the environment of Gallagher-Iba Arena."
While not always the best player on the floor, Muonelo has been the heart of an OSU program that has seen manic highs and lows during his time in Stillwater. And his personality and approach to life is one reason why everything has been that much easier to deal with.
"When I first came here, me and O had a rough start. A rough start," Matt Pilgrim said. "But as I got to know him and just realized that this was Obi, I couldn't hate on him no more. This is O. And when I realized that and that he was always there for me in tough times and that I could always go talk to him about anything, and trusted him - that was the big thing. So it's going to be crazy losing him."
Ford says that Muonelo will be missed in a lot of ways, but how he handles himself will be the biggest loss.
"I'm going to miss his personality and being around him every day," Ford said. "He's fun to be around and he's extremely polite. And he always has positive things to say. Everybody hears me yelling 'Obi! Obi!' all the time and he always responds, 'Yes, sir, coach, I know.' And that's fun to be around a kid who is coachable like that.
"I've stated many times, nobody has worked harder than Obi Muonelo. I don't know that I've had many players work as hard as he has outside of practice. For that reason, whatever he decides to do - he'll play basketball for a little while, could be for a long time - but whatever he decides to do after that, he'll be successful because he has a true understanding of work ethic and what it takes to try and best your best. Fun to be around. Great young man."
And while it's just about time for this Cowboy to ride forever off into the sunset, he will always have a special spot in the hearts of Orange Country because of his hard work ethic, solid play and wonderful personality.
Happy trails, Obi.
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