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Indiana's Abell shooting at record pace

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'Gym rat' guard elevates his game

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 2:30 am

BLOOMINGTON –- To the list of great Indiana basketball shooters we offer …

Remy Abell?

Are you serious?

Numbers don't lie, but they can confuse, especially when they seem to clash with perspective.

Understand this is a snapshot statistical moment in a non-conference scheduling lull. Top-ranked IU has played just eight games, and won't play again until Saturday against lightweight Central Connecticut State. Its best opposition lies ahead, mostly far ahead.

Still, for now, Abell is the Hoosiers' most accurate. He is better than guard Jordan Hulls, regarded as one of the nation's top shooters. He is better than forward Cody Zeller, considered perhaps the nation's best player. He is better than anyone who has ever played for the Cream 'n Crimson.

If this seems way early, and it is, don't spoil the moment.

Anyway, Abell is 18-for-28 from the field. That's a team-leading 64.3-percent clip, better than Zeller (63.2 percent), better than Victor Oladipo (63.3), better than Hulls (55.7 percent) and much better than the 62.8 percent single-season school record set by Matt Nover in 1993.

Last year Abell, a 6-4 sophomore guard, shot 44.4 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range. He barely played until the final month of the season, and wound up averaging 8.3 minutes a game.

But that last month reflected a season of behind-the-scenes work. Lots of work, especially on his shooting. He continued that approach during the off-season, then preseason practice, and beyond.

“I was a gym rat,” he says. “My teammates and my coaches pushed me to stay in the gym and get extra shots. Do something every day. Take 200 to 300 shots every day.”

Now coach Tom Crean says Abell's work habits approach, although don't yet match, that of workaholics Hulls, Oladipo and Will Sheehey.

“He's grown up,” Crean says. “He's worked very hard. I mean, he's worked very, very hard. He's becoming a 365-day-a-year guy. He's not quite there yet.

“He's not in the Will, Victor, Jordan class just yet of sometimes working out twice a day inside of those 365 days. I mean, those guys go at it whether it's a day off or not.

“Remy is getting really close to that.”

Last year Abell had his moments, with the highlight the 13-point surprise he had at Purdue. It was his only double-figure scoring game of the season and it was part of a 5-for-6 shooting night he never came close to duplicating.

Abell opened this season by hitting his first nine shots stretched over three games. He has recorded three double-figure scoring games, including a career-high 14 points against North Dakota State and last Saturday's 10-point effort against Coppin State.

“I'm playing with confidence,” he says. “I'm shooting and trying to help my team win. Get open and knock it down with confidence.”

Beyond shooting, Abell has improved his ballhanding and defending. He's nearly doubled his playing time, to 15.0 minutes a game. But mostly, Crean says, he's working at a championship level.

“He'll continue to get better because he is practicing well, but it's got to be so much more than practice,” Crean says. “You've got to get those reps and get them at game speed and game tempo, and he's doing that.”

Abell arrived as a recruiting afterthought in a class dominated by Zeller. But this former Louisville Eastern High School standout has played his way into a key reserve role, with more ahead in the years to come.

“He's a confident player with a lot of room to grow,” Crean says, “a lot of room to get better defensively, a lot of room to push the pace even more. He's growing confidently and I think that will help his game grow exponentially.”