By Jerry Del Priore
After winning the women’s college basketball Skyline Conference Rookie of the Week a league-leading seven times, St. Joseph’s College (Brooklyn) freshman Kelly O’Donnell captured the Rookie of the Year honor, and named Second-Team All-Conference, the association announced earlier in the week.
“Honestly, I tried not to focus on it,” the five-foot-ten-inch guard said. “I never thought, ‘I got it. It’s in the bag.’ But it was in the back of my head.”
After the Skyline Conference bestowed her with the honors, O’Donnell received an outpouring of family love.
“My mother bought me balloons, and my cousin bought me a cupcake with two basketballs on it,” O’Donnell said with joy in her voice. “It was a great moment. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
The Marine Park native started in all 26 contests of the Bears’ 11-15 campaign and set a program rookie record, averaging 17.8 points per game, with a total season output of 464 points, ranking third in the Skyline Conference.
In addition, O’Donnell scored in double figures in all but one game, finishing on an active streak of 24 tilts, which included two Division-I opponents.
The 18-year-old’s eight rebounds and 2.5 steals a game were also team bests as she recorded a squad-leading seven double-doubles, including the first points-steals double-double in team history, swiping an SJC single-contest record 10 against Sarah Lawrence on February 10.
While the former St. Edmunds Prep star said being a newcomer to college basketball might have helped her succeed, next season O’Donnell plans to work even harder to counter what the opposition knows of her now.
“Being a freshman, teams didn’t know who I was,” she explained. “Next year, there will be more of a scouting report on me. But I’ll have to work harder to beat that.”
That includes getting more powerful while adding more weight to her lanky, athletic 130-pound frame, O’Donnell said.
“I want to get stronger,” she said. “I got rag-dolled a little bit (this season). It was a wake-up call.”
Individual accomplishments aside, O’Donnell said she sees the Bears, who made the postseason this year, getting even better next season, with Lauren Quesada returning from injury.
“I’m not surprised at all as far as making the making playoffs,” O’Donnell said of her team’s ability. “We worked hard as a team. Knowing Lauren is coming back, we’re going to be a force to reckoned with (next year).”