Tucson improving from injuries, including starter who’s nephew of Ed & Charles O’Bannon

Khalil O’Bannon is a senior guard with Tucson, retuning to the Badgers after playing in the program as a freshman (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

The name O’Bannon in basketball circles in Tucson brings up images of the intense UCLA-Arizona rivalries in the 1990’s when both programs challenged for national titles.

Ed and Charles O’Bannon are members of the last UCLA team to win a championship in 1994-95, two years before Arizona earned the distinction of being the most-recent Pac-12 team to win a title.

Little-known fact: they have a brother named Corey who was a fire fighter. Corey’s son, Khalil O’Bannon, has emerged into a quality basketball player who now attends school about a mile from where his uncles battled Arizona in some intense games at McKale Center.

“It’s actually pretty nice, living lavish, just kidding” Khalil said with a laugh about being part of the O’Bannon basketball family after he contributed six points in Tucson High’s 69-39 win Tuesday night over Cholla at the Badgers’ gym.

“It’s just nice to be known around.”

Khalil is a 6-foot-2 senior guard who is averaging 11.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals per game for Tucson, which has emerged as one of the top 6A teams in the state at 14-2.

He played at Tucson High his freshman year. COVID-19 wiped out his sophomore season, and last year, he played for a prep school in Phoenix. He relocated to Tucson this year to live with his mother, who owns a group home here.

He said he has not spoken with Ed or Charles since he was “young.”

He wants to play college basketball but said if that doesn’t work out, he will take part in an international developmental league.

Khalil O’Bannon is one of many Tucson players who have missed a significant amount of games because of injuries. He has played in 11 of the Badgers’ 16 games.

Tucson coach Eric Langford has finally played the last four games with his full allotment of players for the first time this season after playing parts of this season with at least three players out of the lineup from time to time.

Four of the Badgers’ 10 leading scorers have missed a combined 30 games.

That includes 12 games missed by burgeoning talent Dilen Miller because of a broken ankle suffered in a tournament in Phoenix in September.

“Now we’re getting starters back and people healthy,” Langford said. “With stuff like that, it’s a good mix of kids we have right now.”

Miller, a 6-foot-4 junior guard, moved to Tucson this school year after averaging 27.2 points and 13.2 rebounds a game last year at Wichita Falls (Texas) Christ Academy. He came to Tucson because his mother got a job here.

Miller led Tucson with 14 points in the Badgers’ win over a good Cholla team that features senior guard Masai Dean Jr., who finished with 11 points.

“I’ve had minor injuries like a rolled ankle or sore finger or something but a broken ankle, it’s hard to come back from mentally,” Miller said. “Having physical therapy, the surgery, it was a lot to go through.

“I’m not at 100 percent but I’m getting there.”

Tucson, which plays in the 6A South, improved to 14-2 overall while Cholla, out of the 5A Southern, is now 10-4.

“I equate (the success despite the injuries) to our summer work,” said Langford, a Badger great who is in his third season leading his alma mater. “I had a lot of the underclassmen stay with me in the summer instead of playing club ball. Those are the kids who played the first eight or nine games for us.”

Tucson’s improved depth comes at the right time with the Badgers starting region play Monday against Marana in the MLK Classic at 4:30 p.m. McKale Center. An O’Bannon will return to play a game at the arena 26 years after Charles played his last game there.

Antoine Green had 10 points and Adam Bernal finished with nine in the win over Cholla Tuesday.

The Chargers were led by Adrian Perez’s 13 points.

They will also play in the MLK Classic on Monday against Catalina Foothills in their 5A Southern opener at 7:30 p.m.

Tucson and Cholla have games before Monday’s full slate of games at McKale Center to honor King on Martin Luther King Day.

Tucson plays Maricopa at home Wednesday before hosting Cienega on Thursday. Both games start at 7 p.m.

Cholla hosts Rincon/University on Friday at 7 p.m.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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