Eli Kell-Abrams said that one of the high points of his first season with Emerson men’s basketball was getting the call from head coach Jim O’Brien informing him the team they had made the playoffs. Last night, the freshman point guard received even more good news — Kell-Abrams was named the 2012 Rookie of the Year for the Great Northeast Athletic Conference.
“I’m very happy; I mean it’s a great honor to get,” Kell-Abrams said in a phone interview. “It’s kind of nice to see hard work paying off.”
The freshman leads the team in assists and steals and is the first men’s basketball player to win the award since Rob Hennigan won it in 2001. Kell-Abrams was also second in scoring with 9.2 per game. Hennigan is currently the assistant general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
O’Brien said that he pushed Kell-Abrams hard, and he felt the freshman the player responded.
“I thought that he just got better and better as the season went along,” O’Brien said. “I think that he deserves a lot of credit because I was not easy on him. I had some pretty big demands on him.”
During the transition into college-level basketball, Kell-Abrams said his coaches helped him improve his ball control.
“When I got here at the beginning of the year, I felt like my turnover count was too high,” the journalism major said. “For the most part, I did a somewhat better job. The coaches were with me every step of the way.”
Kell-Abrams averaged three turnovers a game, but his 3.8 assists per game were good enough for fifth in the GNAC.
O’Brien said the guard stood apart from the rest of the freshmen in the conference because of his considerable workload.
“He was very fortunate that he got a really good opportunity to get a chance to do the things that he did,” O’Brien said. “To his credit, he took advantage of it and maximized his opportunity to do well.”
On a team of 16 players that at times dressed eight seniors, Kell-Abrams played in all 26 games, starting in 23 of them. No other freshman in the conference played more minutes than Kell-Abrams.
Kell-Abrams said that his would not have been possible without the support from the Emerson players and coaches.
“I can’t say enough about the coaching staff,” Kell-Abrams said. “They’re amazing.”