As a high-school freshman in Des Moines, Iowa, Kale Abrahamson was eager to enter his first game. When he checked in at the scorer’s table and marched onto the court, there was just one problem: his warm-up clothes were on.
Now a first-year player with Northwestern, Abrahamson feared such an embarrassing scenario would play out on a much larger stage.
“I thought stuff like that would happen this year,” he said.
There is plenty that can ruffle the feathers of a true freshman. Pressure packed into each possession, and adversity requires a rapid response. Abrahamson hasn’t been fazed in the slightest throughout his first 19 college games.
“I think I’ve done fine,” said Abrahamson. “The nerves never really got to me like I thought they would.”
Abrahamson has a lot on his plate already. He was once projected to be just a role player off the bench, but the absence of the injured Drew Crawford forced him into the starting lineup.
Filling the shoes of a seasoned veteran like Crawford is no easy task, but Abrahamson proved to teammates he was more than capable.
“He’s definitely confident, which is huge,” senior guard Reggie Hearn said. “You have to be confident to play at this level. If he sees an open shot, he’s going to take it. That’s what we need him to do. As long as he continues to maintain that confidence and keep playing hard, he’s going to do good things for us.”
However, Abrahamson has had a rough run recently. After averaging nine points in his first three Big Ten contests, he recorded just five points in the next three outings.
As a result of the ineffective play on offense, head coach Bill Carmody has utilized a quick trigger when Abrahamson’s struggles are revealed.
“Right now, he’s just not in the flow of things offensively,” Carmody said of his freshman guard. “He’s not nervous; he’s just trying to make a play to show he belongs out there.”
None of Abrahamson’s Northwestern teammates have ever questioned his poise or abilities. But through the sharpshooter’s recent struggles, it’s important he doesn’t try to do too much on the court.
“We just need him to play solid for us,” point guard Dave Sobolewski said. “We don’t need him to go out and score 20 or 25 points. We just need him to hit open shots when he’s open and stay within the flow of the offense.”
While frustrated with the slump, Abrahamson remains focused on growing as a player.
“Every game, you get a little bit better,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Abrahamson is just one of the pieces to Northwestern’s puzzle. When a veteran-laden lineup lost two of its most important players, the young Wildcats were asked to embrace key roles. Named along with Abrahamson in the starting five is freshman center Alex Olah, who has made steady improvements. As the freshmen become more comfortable, the entire Northwestern team shows its potential.
“Our freshmen have been making progress,” Sobolewski said. “I think our whole team has been making progress. We have a young group, a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces. Watching us pay, I think you can see we’ve been getting steadily better as the season goes on.”
When playing in hostile road venues such as Assembly Hall and Williams Arena, the maturation process accelerates. Abrahamson remains the same confident player, and the experience gained thus far will only make him better.
“We’ve been here a while, as freshmen,” Abrahamson said. “It seems like we’re young guys, but we’ve actually been here a long time. It’s starting to show a little bit.”