Go ahead, leave him out of postgame discussions. Divert attention to the starters. That’s the way he wants it.
“Remy Abell gets his first bucket,” ESPN broadcaster Mike Patrick said surprisingly Wednesday during the NC State game.
With the game tied at 32 in the first half, senior guard Verdell Jones III drove into the lane and was engulfed by opposing white uniforms. Jones kicked it out to Abell on the perimeter, where the freshman guard made the first three of his college career, a bucket that put IU up with 5:32 left in the first half.
“That was his first three-point shot of the season,” Patrick said. “He had been 0-for-3, so the scouting report says let him take it.”
That’s right, keep underestimating Abell.
The runt of a freshman class that included three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week Cody Zeller and Indiana high school sharpshooter Austin Etherington, Abell committed to the Hoosiers in April — five months after Zeller and nearly 21 months after Etherington.
On ESPN.com’s basketball recruiting page for that 2011 class, Abell is listed below his two teammates as a two-star recruit, lacking even a picture of his face, which Etherington and Zeller have.
“I kind of like it. Nobody really talks about me, but I just keep working,” Abell said. “I like being underestimated because nobody really knows how good you are until you show it. So I’m just behind the scenes watching everybody, and I’m very happy for all my teammates that get all the praise, but I’m just going to keep working and be ready once my name gets called.”
In a basketball world full of self-indulgence, Abell sunk his first three and ran the court with a determined stare, looking for his man to defend. There was no fist-pumping, floor-slapping, stare-downs or trash talk.
It was just Abell seeing some of his hard work pay off and helping his team to an eventual 86-75 road win. He would finish the game with a modest career-high of five points to accompany a rebound and steal in eight minutes of playing time.
“It’s big for our team, and it’s big for Remy’s confidence,” Assistant Coach Bennie Seltzer said. “We know he’s capable of doing just those things and even more. ”
A Louisville, Ky., native, Abell is the first player from Kentucky to score a point for IU in more than 65 years. This season, he’s averaging 7.7 minutes a game off the bench and scoring an average of 2.9 points per game.
He hasn’t thrown down thunderous alley-oop dunks or dished no-look passes. His 3-pointer against NC State might have been the first time you looked up and thought, “Oh yeah, I forgot that we signed that guy.”
So far this season, Abell is providing IU with a tough defender and added depth at the guard position.
“I just see myself fitting in wherever they need me and being ready,” Abell said. “I’m just trying to work hard every day — work on my game — and my coaches and my teammates are doing a good job of pushing me. I’ve always grown up having a work ethic, so that helped me, the way I grew up, wanting to play basketball.”
I know Abell is going to work his tail off just given the opportunity he has in Bloomington.
Originally committed to Bradley, Abell asked for and was granted a release from his letter of intent after head coach Jim Les was fired. Within the month, Abell visited IU and switched his commitment to the Hoosiers.
“It really has (hit me),” he said. “I don’t think it was at the NC State game — that was a big win — but from the beginning, when we started Hoosier Hysteria, that’s when it really kind of hit me, like I’m really at Indiana.”
As much as I wanted him to, the humble guard never did give himself credit for that key 3-pointer that changed the momentum of Wednesday’s game, nor did he recognize the fact that it was his first bucket from beyond the arc as a Hoosier.
“It was a good drive by Verdell, and he kicked to me, and I was ready to shoot,” Abell said. “It was a big shot coming in and giving my team some uplift, and we took the lead, actually, so it really helped.”
So continue to underestimate Remy Abell. He wants to surprise you.
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