ORANGE PARK - Orange Park High basketball point guard Anthony Abate joined his Raider history on the bench not as a select shooter and leader on the court, but as an assistant coach to mentor Derek …
ORANGE PARK - Orange Park High basketball point guard Anthony Abate joined his Raider history on the bench not as a select shooter and leader on the court, but as an assistant coach to mentor Derek Kurnitsky, the Raiders’ high-emotion head basketball coach. Also, Abate joined younger brother John Abate, an incoming junior point guard for Kurnitsky for next year.
“The basketball speed is much faster at the college level,” said Abate, who averaged about 18-19 minutes of playing time as a freshman on a team with just two senior players. “The IQ of the basketball players is the biggest jump even at the Division III level. Faster guys, bigger guys and they hit harder.”
Abate, to be a sophomore shooting guard at Elmira College in New York, returned to his hometown roots for the annual Raiders’ summer league schedule and has offered his college experience to the younger Raider hopefuls; one his younger brother John Abate, while preparing himself for his second year at the college level. Elmira graduated just two seniors.
“Coach Kurnitsky asked me to help out on his summer basketball team and I’m loving it,” said Abate. “He prepared me well for the college game with his fast-paced style and I can come in and demonstrate the techniques that gave me some success at Elmira.”
Abate, who put up a 5.3 points per game average for the Soaring Eagles with a season-best of 16 points with five games in double digit scoring, commented that his Elmira team did not fare as well as expected as per wins and losses, but that the youth on the squad is looking to improve immensely this year.
Abate averaged about 19 minutes per game for Elmira with three rebounds and two assists from his rookie slot. Abate scored his best four games in his first four games on the college level with games of 11, 13, 16 and 12 points in four of five games in November 2016. In those games, Abate had game minutes of 15, 36, 36 and 37 games as his presence pushed Elmira to two losses and two wins (70-68 over SUNY Maritime with Abate hitting nine free throws, 76-67 over Vassar with Abate snagging team-high 14 rebounds) for the early part of the season before a 10 game losing streak ensued that featured just one win (66-63 Ithaca, team high three steals) in the final 11 games giving the Soaring Eagles a dismal three win season.
“We didn’t do as well as we wanted, but we were very young,” said Abate.
Where Abate excelled was on the defensive side of the ball with 58 total rebounds and 12 steals. Abate also had 35 assists for the season.
For the battle off the backboard, Abate as been concentrating on adding some heft to his slight frame with a strong weightlifting and conditioning program for the summer.
“The goal is to put on 15-20 pounds of muscle mass to improve durability under the boards,” said Abate.
As for his first year of college, Abate noted that his student involvement away from home was an eye-opener and offered some appreciation of what his parents did for him while in high school.
“The biggest transition from high school to college life is the academics,” said Abate. “You are totally responsible for getting to class, eating breakfast and practice. It’s very intense sometimes.”
Note: So far in June, Abate has not learned the code for the Kurnitsky foot-stomping communication.
After college, Abate toyed with the idea of professional basketball noting he has plenty of time to fulfill that dream.
“I can only work hard every day and keep that dream alive,” said Abate.