In his NLL rookie season, Connor Sellars proved to be a valuable asset to the Georgia Swarm. The newcomer posted three goals and four assists for the 2017 NLL Champions, in addition to gathering 52 loose balls and causing 12 turnovers. He added four assists, 14 loose balls and caused one turnover during the playoffs. Coming from Belmont Abbey College where he was the all-time leading scorer, Sellars took time with GeorgiaSwarm.com to discuss his rookie season.
Q: Many players never win a championship in their career. How did it feel to win a championship in your rookie season?
Sellars: It was actually quite unbelievable that you can come in and win it your first year. It’s just surreal to think of, being able to walk in and be part of a team that ended up winning the championship and doing that especially in your first year. You can never take it for granted either, because you know there are guys on the team who have been playing for 10 years and never won a championship, so you can’t take it for granted. You’ve got to appreciate it, especially in your first year, and keep striving to do the best and see if we can keep going and winning more in the future.
Q: Was your preparation for the playoffs different than veteran players?
Sellars: I wouldn’t say it was any different from veteran players, our preparation was pretty much the same. I don’t think any of us changed what we did to prepare for the playoffs compared to what we did for the regular season, and I think that’s what really helped us a lot. We kind of stayed in the same preparation and mindset as we played in the regular season to be successful and just kept it going from there.
Q: Saskatchewan was the two-time defending champions. Did that make playing them for the Cup more intimidating?
Sellars: I don’t know if that made it more intimidating, but they definitely made it more challenging for us because they had a ton of experience obviously in these big games near the finals and stuff like that. The last two years they’ve had about the same roster, and we have a lot of young guys who have never been to that point in our careers before and have had the opportunity to play in that game. But I think it was even a little more motivation that we didn’t want to be the team that let them be the three-time champions.
Q: How did you see your game grow and improve throughout the season?
Sellars: I think my game grew throughout the season by just getting more comfortable in the environment and playing in these big games and everything like that. Just kind of getting rid of the nerves as a rookie as you get further on throughout the season. Obviously you get more comfortable and you lose the nerves a little. So you grow from there, but I feel like just getting more experience really helped also because you’ve been in certain situations before so you know to stay calm and relaxed. You’ve just got to go out and make the next play and don’t worry about the little things that happen earlier in the game.
Q: With such a strong rookie season, how will that affect your expectations for yourself and the team moving forward?
Sellars: I think our expectations are going to be basically the same. Everyone comes into the season with the expectation to be the National Champions, to win the Champion’s Cup. As an individual, you just want to see yourself grow and continue to be successful. Being able to have experience, to rely on other players on the team but also to strive and do the best you can, make less mistakes, and come in and help the team in any way possible. Sometimes it’s getting opportunities and being the person who scores the goal in the finals or something like that. But you also have to be able to play in the tough scenarios in the games where you can shut down other defenders, make sure we stop runs and everything that the other teams are going on.
Sellars battling against New England | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess
Q: What were you able to learn from your teammates this season?
Sellars: I learned a lot from my teammates this season especially because there’s multiple rookies on the team with me, Bryan (Cole), Leo (Stouros) and Liam (Byrnes) which was good because me, Bryan and Leo kind of played a lot this season which was good because we had each other to rely on. But the team, really the older guys, helped us embrace things and helped us to stay confident and make sure we weren’t nervous going into games. They made sure we were prepared and talked with us through certain things and gave us experience through things they’ve encountered throughout their careers to help benefit us.
Q:As one of four rookie defenders for the Swarm, can you describe your relationship with your fellow rookie teammates?
Sellars: I don’t think our relationship had a difference between rookies or veterans. I think we were a pretty close-knit, tight group that we all kind of knew each other going in and played against each other growing up and stuff, so it was all really good there. Obviously the rookies, we kind of stuck together a lot. Bryan was one of my roommates so we were close there. We got pretty close through the year because we always roomed together, and then when Leo was with us we all kind of sat in the locker room together, we had our little rookie bond. But I would say none of the relationships on our team changed because of the veteran to rookie status. We were just a close-knit group and we all treated each other the same.
Q: What are some personal goals you have for yourself going into the 2018 season?
Sellars: I think the goals are kind of the same and trying to be an elite defender down there and be able to play in high-pressure scenarios that make our team more successful and contribute what I can on the offensive side and be able to push the ball in transition sometimes. But I think my main goal for this year is to try and work on being more of an elite-level defender where I can go against all of the top guys and try to shut them down and limit their opportunities and try to help our team be successful.
Q: We did our last Q&A with Defensive Player of the Year Jason Noble. In what ways do you look up to him as your assistant captain and fellow defenseman?
Sellars: I look up to him a lot. I played against him when I was younger, I play against him still, and so you can see how he’s always fast and he’s energetic, comfortable with giving everyone a hard time. You hate to play against him, but he’s one of those guys you hate playing against but love to play with him. He makes it hard on opposing players at all times, and looking up to that, I want to strive to be able to have that kind of reputation where people don’t like playing against you. That you’re always being successful and giving them a hard time and eliminating their opportunities on the offensive side.
Q: You were known as an offensive threat in your college career at Belmont Abbey and are now a key defender for the Swarm. What has that transition been like?
Sellars: It hasn’t been too much of a transition because over the summer I played in the Junior League in Ontario and same with Senior A League, and I was a defender in those leagues so I played D for a while. When I was in school, it was a good experience to play offense because it really helps your abilities in pushing the ball in transition and being able to carry the ball and not worrying about scenarios where you have the ball in your stick. I think it has probably attributed to my defensive abilities because you can push the ball and you can force the hand on some of the offensive guys to have to maybe play defense sometimes.
Q: What does the offseason look like for you in terms of soaking in the win, rest and prep for next season?
Sellars: Right when we come back I played the Senior A League in Ontario, so I came back and played that, but now it’s the offseason for that so it’s a little rest and recovery now. But it’s a lot of training also, you still have to keep your body in the right shape and get ready for training camp coming up. We kind of take a couple weeks off right after the season, soaked in the Championship win, but you’ve got to get back into everything, get back into playing and also now back more into the gym and focusing on next year and training camp coming up.
Pictured from left: Bryan Cole, Leo Stouros, Liam Byrnes & Connor Sellars | Photo Credit: Josh Schaefer
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