In his first season as a member of the New England Black Wolves, Reilly O’Connor is quietly putting up impressive numbers. The second-year forward has already doubled his rookie season goal scoring total in just 12 games and has tied his points total from last season.
But for the coaching staff, it is the little things the Georgetown product does that are so impressive.
“I think he’s a very smart player which sounds like a cliché, but the reason I say that is because a lot of what he does is very subtle,” head coach Glenn Clark explained. “A lot of fans won’t notice the picks and the space he creates and how he moves the ball and creates floor balance and all those things that we talk about internally that we really like. Reilly doesn’t often do spectacular things, but he does cerebral, important, team-based things throughout the game which is what provides value. We recognize it. We see the value. I recognize sometimes that it’s not sizzley and flashy, but he’s certainly getting the job done and having a good, solid season for us.”
Acquired by the Black Wolves in a trade with the Calgary Roughnecks on November 15, 2016, O’Connor acknowledges that while his numbers are improved from last season, he still has room to grow.
“I am doing a lot better than last year, still not where I would like to be,” he said. “But a lot of that comes from the opportunity I’ve been given here, and the confidence I’m playing with. Obviously I loved my time in Calgary. We had a great team. But I’ve taken on a bigger role with the Black Wolves.”
A member of a strong left side that has anchored the Black Wolves offense this season, O’Connor is no stranger to success. Selected seventh overall in the 2015 NLL Entry Draft by the Roughnecks, he was a two-time All-BIG EAST Second Team honoree with the Hoyas and wrapped up his career 12th in program history with 133 points and eighth with 67 assists.
One of the things that O’Connor has attributed his success so far this season to is the coaching staff and his teammates. When he played in Junior A, O’Connor had the honor of winning the Jim Veltman Most Outstanding Player award and now has the opportunity to be coached by the legend.
“I don’t really base my success on individual awards, but to win the Jim Veltman award was pretty special because obviously he was one of, if not the greatest, player of all time,” O’Connor explained. “He played the game the right way, he did so many things for his team to win. The biggest thing about him was that he made every single player around him better, so obviously that was a huge honor in my career.”
Having spent time with the Roughnecks, O’Connor is well acquainted with their history and tradition. One part of that history is Black Wolves offensive coordinator Tracey Kelusky, who he has enjoyed playing for this season.
“Playing for Coach Kelusky, just being around him and learning from him and interacting with him is pretty special,” he said. “Obviously, we had a pretty special night in Calgary that honored him. The thing I respect most about him is how passionate he is, how much he cares, and how badly he wants to win. It’s pretty easy getting fired up and playing for a coach like that.”
There is still work for O’Connor and the rest of the Black Wolves to do in order to advance to the playoffs and they know that every game matters from here on out. No matter where things go from here, he has enjoyed his first season in New England.
“Last year I played here once as a visitor and heard some things around the league but being here and being in the atmosphere, the venue is second to none,” he said. “The fans are awesome, the staff is great and the team culture is what I love most about playing with this team. I’m having a great year and I really enjoy playing with the Black Wolves.”
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