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North's Abakah heavily involved on and off the court

File Photo North Gwinnett's Kwesi Abakah (12) battles for the ball against Milton during a playoff game this past season. Abakah recently commitment to Northeastern.

File Photo North Gwinnett's Kwesi Abakah (12) battles for the ball against Milton during a playoff game this past season. Abakah recently commitment to Northeastern.

Whether they've seen him play or not, people will always identify Kwesi Abakah as a basketball player.

Those who haven't seen his North Gwinnett team play the past few seasons will still assume that his sport is basketball -- the natural assumption for someone who is 6-foot-9.

While the sport is an important part of who the North senior is, it's just one of many interests in his life. He wasn't voted "Most Involved" by the North seniors without reason.

"I had a great upbringing and my parents always kept me involved and active with sports, academics and anything else," Abakah said of his many interests. "Now it's kind of second nature."

In addition to Abakah's basketball and numerous school clubs, he also plays the trumpet and the piano. He plays in North's band -- he was in the marching bands from his freshman to junior year -- and carries a 3.7 GPA in advanced placement and honors classes.

"Kwesi's a tremendous kid," North boys basketball coach Zach Smith said. "He's as well-rounded a kid as there is in our school. ... He's very intelligent obviously. He's well-spoken. He really is a great kid. He's got a bright future outside of basketball."

Abakah also enjoys singing. You may have caught him performing the National Anthem before a North basketball game this season.

"Music's something I do for fun," Abakah said. "Basketball and education have been the major focus for me."

Basketball also led to numerous education options for Abakah.

He had scholarship offers and an intriguing preferred walk-on spot at Georgia Tech (both his parents are engineers who went to Tech), but committed recently to Northeastern. He enjoyed his visit to the Boston school and knew it was a great place for him, both academically and athletically.

"Definitely the academics were important," Abakah said. "They have a very good engineering program and they ranked No. 62 in the U.S. News College Rankings (for 2012). ... Of course the athletic program was important, too. They play in the CAA, a competitive D-I conference, with Georgia State, Drexel, VCU, all those teams. It's the best of both worlds in academics and athletics."

Abakah has always been a star in the classroom, while mixing a variety of sports during his youth. He played soccer, baseball, tennis and basketball, bouncing from season to season.

He played tennis as a North freshman, then shifted his interest fully to basketball. He played on North's freshman and junior varsity basketball teams his first two seasons, and wasn't one of the team's stars.

But between his sophomore and junior seasons, everything came together with loads of hard work.

"He's a hard worker and he's really worked to develop his team," Smith said. "He went through the program, played on the ninth-grade team, played on the JV team. I don't think he averaged 10 points on the JV team. Then between his JV and junior year, he really made a lot of improvement. He made a big impact on our team as a junior and this past year he was one of the better players in the region."

That transition year was fun for Abakah, who jumped into the varsity starting lineup as a junior, where he averaged 8.2 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds.

"I just improved on a little bit of everything (before my junior year), a lot of intangibles, like being more aggressive going after every rebound," Abakah said.

He averaged 7.2 points and 7.7 boards as a senior, helping the Bulldogs to the Elite Eight of the state tournament. His two-year varsity showing, and his long-term potential, led to heavy interest from college recruiters.

It didn't hurt that he's 6-9, and Northeastern plans to use him primarily at power forward.

"He's got a lot of upside," Smith said. "He's still raw offensively, so he's got a lot of room to improve offensively. He's a very good defender and he understands positioning on the defensive end. Those are things that are either you have them or you don't. And he's got them. That's good because now he can go to work on his offensive skills."

It's also a safe bet that academics and athletics won't be Abakah's only activities at Northeastern. He loves to stay involved, a trait he said he learned from his family. He credits them for fueling his success, and helping him earn the scholarship to Northeastern.

"I have to thank my parents," Abakah said. "My mom and dad have been with me through it all, taking me to practices, signing me up for training, giving me pep talks before and after games. With getting my highlight videos up on YouTube (for college recruiters), my brother came and videoed all my games. My mom and dad helped edit the video. I owe a lot to all of them."