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Kellenberg center O'Connor is Nassau Player of Year

Senior center Emma O'Connor, Newsday's All-Long Nassau Player

Senior center Emma O'Connor, Newsday's All-Long Nassau Player of the Year, helped put Kellenberg's girls basketball program on the map. (Feb. 28, 2010) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Emma O'Connor is one of Long Island's best high school centers, but she has the decision-making skills of a point guard. Need proof? Four years ago, O'Connor chose to attend Kellenberg, even knowing that as a freshman, she couldn't play on the varsity.

Her choice paid off as O'Connor entered her senior season with a state championship, and exits as Newsday's Nassau Player of the Year.

"People say I put Kellenberg on the map," said O'Connor, who scored 1,011 points in three seasons. "But it was just a great experience. I kind of feel like I did make an impact at the school."

She certainly did. This season, O'Connor averaged 18 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and four blocks and won the Clark Award as Nassau's top girls basketball player. She helped Kellenberg to a 16-6 record and an appearance in the state CHSAA Class AA playoffs.

The 6-foot O'Connor had no guarantees when she arrived. She always attended Catholic schools and narrowed her high school choices to Kellenberg, Holy Trinity and Sacred Heart. She chose Kellenberg.

"I was willing to not play my freshman year because Kellenberg is a great school," she said. "I didn't go to the school just for basketball, I made basketball a part of it. I liked the academics. I liked the whole basketball program. And I liked the respect of earning your way onto varsity."

As a junior, O'Connor helped Kellenberg win the state Federation Class A title. That season, she went up against future Division I centers Christine Huber (St. John the Baptist) and Terry Green (Holy Trinity). "Playing against them helped me learn how to develop my game and become like them," she said.

Just as influential was teammate Katie Cunningham. "We knew each other," O'Connor said. "Our friends were friends. She helped us win plenty of games and she also helped put the school on the map."

Now O'Connor heads to a different school. Next year, she'll play for Marist, where once again, playing time is not guaranteed. She wouldn't have it any other way. Said O'Connor: "They told me that they're expecting big things from me, but obviously, I'll have to earn my way on. I respect that. I don't want to go into a school and have a starting role right away."- MARK MACYK

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