High Hopes return as New Mens Basketball Season Approaches
By Shane Marshall
If Peter Hooley has a limited shot range, he doesn’t know it. Either that or University at Albany men’s basketball coach Will Brown hasn’t addressed it.
Whether the fifth-year senior guard has “Jimmer-range” is another story.
“The [shot] in the Oklahoma game was pretty deep,” Hooley said. “Let me test that theory and get back to you, we’ll figure it out.”
One thing Hooley has figured out is how to hit the big shot when UAlbany needs it. After all, he hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left, the Great Danes’ only triple, to knock off Stony Brook 51-50 in the America East Tournament to send UAlbany to the NCAA Tournament for the third-straight season.
Then there was the first-half shot against Oklahoma to bring the Danes within two of the Sooners with 8:56 until halftime. UAlbany would lose 69-60, but Hooley provided a lot of energy all season.
“When our backs are against the wall we can all bond together,” Hooley said. “The strongest part about UAlbany basketball is we’re a family together. There’s going to be times when our backs are against the wall and we’ve got to make sure we come together.”
Now the page has been turned. It’s a new chapter for Hooley and Co., and it’s not an easier one by any means. They open with No. 1-ranked Kentucky on Nov. 13.
“I’m always more confident playing the higher level teams later in the year,” Brown said. “I think that our teams, especially recently, have really gotten better as the year has gone on.”
UAlbany returns four starters from last season with Sam Rowley being the lone loss from last year’s roster. Rowley was an all-conference first-teamer and led the Great Danes in scoring.
Returning with Hooley on the perimeter are Evan Singletary and Ray Sanders. Both transferred to UAlbany from junior colleges last season and played crucial minutes for the Great Danes en route to the Big Dance.
Sanders was recently named a captain along with Hooley and senior walk-on Reece Williams.
In the frontcourt, Richard Peters, Greig Stire and Mike Rowley all return from last year’s team. The one called upon to fill the middle will be based on production.
“We just need to get some offensive production on a nightly basis,” Brown said of his big men. “Those guys can all defend, rebound and help us win, they just have to contribute offensively.”
The Great Danes added depth this season with junior college transfers and freshmen recruits.
Travis Charles, a 6-foot-6 junior forward from Brooklyn, has shown the most talent on the offensive end. Charles transferred from Howard College.
Freshmen Kyle McKinley and Joe Cremo could provide solid minutes for UAlbany.
McKinley is a 6-foot-10 forward from Stillwater, Minn. Guard Reece Williams says he’s the biggest guy on the team since John Puk graduated in 2011. Cremo is a 6-foot-4 guard from nearby Scotia, who is regarded by teammates as a gym rat.
Both have helped add depth to a UAlbany roster that has added size for the upcoming season.
“I do think there is more talent and more depth on this team than there was a year ago,” Brown said. “But, you can only play five guys at a time. I do think we’re loaded on the perimeter, and we have a bunch of big bodies up front. It all comes down to production.”
Brown says the Great Danes will have to be strong in transition defense, limit turnovers, and force the Wildcats to be a jump-shooting team in order to leave Lexington with a win in the season opener. It’s a matchup that is bringing a lot of motivation to UAlbany.
“I’ve been thinking about Kentucky since I found out we were playing them in the summer,” Williams said. “I remind the guys when we do drills. I might say ‘Isaiah Briscoe‘ who is one of the guys who may start, or play a lot of minutes against us.”
Along with Williams, Hooley has the chance to become one of the first players in UAlbany history to make the NCAA Tournament four times.
“This is it for him,” Brown said. “His last go around. I want to make sure three is not good enough for him. Complacency kills and we can’t afford to become complacent. The minute we do, that’s when we’re going to struggle.”