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Column: Did Joe Cremo Make the Right Decision?

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After three years on the University at Albany men’s basketball team, guard Joe Cremo transferred to the Villanova Wildcats. The hometown kid took his talents to Jay Wright and the defending National Champions. But unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you already know this.

People in the Capital District got angry. Really angry. They wanted to tell the Scotia, NY native and two-time New York State Class A Player of the Year what he should do with his life. Make his career decisions for him.

The word thrown around a lot was “loyalty” and finishing what he started at UAlbany. The Danes didn’t win the America East title in his three years there. Coming into his freshman season, they were coming off a three-peat from 2014-16. Translation: Cremo never got to play in the NCAA Tournament.

When speaking to the local media on his decision,  Cremo explained wanting to eliminate the “what ifs” because you “only get one chance at this”. He also wanted to prove to himself he could “play at the highest level”.

His time at Villanova this season was highly scrutinized. Cremo was ‘the man” for the Great Danes averaging 35 minutes per game during his sophomore and junior seasons while averaging 15.8 and 17.8 points per game respectively. The offense ran through him. He was the hometown kid playing for the school he grew up watching.

Cremo takes on the Seton Hall defense during the 2019 Big East Championship Game at Madison Square Garden. Photo by David Lepelstat / Zone 5 Photos

With the Wildcats, it’s different. For better or worse different. He was a role player coming off the bench having to earn his minutes. There were no plays designed for him. He became a pull up shooter within Wright’s system. Four points and two rebounds per game in around 17 minutes of action.

But he played for the defending National Champions. The team that’s won two of the last three titles and four of the last five Big East tournaments including three straight.

He played on national television at Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena, and flourished. 14 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists vs St. Johns on a February Sunday Big East Clash in New York City.

He also hoisted up the Big East Championship Trophy with his brothers on the Garden floor. Cutting down the net. Celebrating in the Knicks locker room.

Cremo cuts down the net during the Wildcats’ postgame celebration after winning the 2019 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Photo by David Lepelstat / Zone 5 Photos

Getting to play two games on the biggest stage: the NCAA Tournament.

But he didn’t score a single point in the conference tournament or the NCAA Tournament and only played 28 minutes in those five games.

There were plenty of both ups and downs. Big fish in a small pond versus small fish in a big one.

Cremo’s graduate transfer season ended with a 87-61 blowout loss to Purdue in the Round of 32 after knocking off Saint Mary’s 61-57, his first NCAA Tournament appearance and win.

It’s very possible it would’ve been a smoother ride playing for the Danes this season. It’s also close to a guarantee that UAlbany wouldn’t have had the fire power even with Cremo to knock off the Vermont Catamounts in the America East Tournament. 13-seed UVM will face off against former Great Dane David Nichols and Florida State.

He never would’ve played in front of 20,000 fans at MSG on national television. Jay Wright wouldn’t have been his coach. Eric Paschall and Phil Booth not his teammates.

Cremo celebrates with his teammates after Villanova’s 74-72 win over Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden to clinch the 2019 Big East Title. Photo by David Lepelstat / Zone 5 Photos

In reality, this is actually really simple. This was Cremo’s decision to make. Not mine, not yours, not anyone else’s but his.

He didn’t want to live with the what ifs, the questions, the regrets. Was it smooth sailing the entire way? No, but nothing in life ever is.

Joe Cremo won a Big East title and got to play for the defending National Champions in the NCAA Tournament. You can’t argue that. Everything else. Well it’s not as simple…

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Rob "Lep" Lepelstat is the sports editor of the Albany Student Press. Along with the ASP, Lep works as Vice President of ATV and sports director for WCDB. He's also had internships at CBS/ Westwood One Sports, ABC Television in NYC, ESPN Radio Albany, etc.

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