Peter Hooley lets it fly, on and off the court
By Celia Balf
March 31, 2015
As Peter Hooley’s fingers type away, palms sweaty, coffee flowing through his veins, he feels the turbulence of the plane around him, the rush to make the deadline for the New York Post consuming him.
As Peter Hooley catches the basketball, palms sweaty, he lets the basketball fly toward the rim, feeling the rush of a shot that could possibly take the University at Albany to the NCAA Tournament.
As I sit across from Peter on March 24, there is neither rush nor chaos, his palms are drying. The Australian country kid is now experiencing the aftermath of a big, beautiful storm, and he is slowly, at his own pace, taking it all in.
“I can now watch everything I’ve done, after two weeks of not being able to breathe,” Hooley said.
Hooley hit the game-winning shot against in the America East Championship against Stony Brook on March 14 to take the Great Danes to the first round of the NCAA tournament against third-ranked Oklahoma. A month prior to this shot, Hooley was at his home in Australia spending time with his family during his mother’s courageous battle with colon cancer. Sue Hooley passed away January 30. Despite his loss, Hooley returned to UAlbany to do exactly what his mother wanted for him: to play basketball alongside his team and his university.
While Peter talks to me, I get a glance of his wrist. The phrase, “Keep flying” is tattooed on it, along with the date of his mother’s death, and a pair of angel wings.
He tells me his mother was a woman of quotes and always told him to, “keep flying.” Hooley got this tattoo shortly after he returned to Albany.
“When something dramatic happens in your life you don’t have to change your course, you just have to keep moving forward, and each time you fall, you have people around you to help pick you up,” he said.
Little did Hooley know, upon getting this tattoo, that “keep flying” or better yet, the saying his mother would religiously recite to him, would carry him through a whirlwind of upcoming endeavors.
After Hooley hit the shot, the story of, “when you have angels watching, you can do anything,” as said by Hooley himself, went viral. The night of the Great Danes victory, Hooley was on Skype with ESPN’s SportsCenter, and appeared the next day on CBS’ Road to the Final Four, gave numerous radio interviews. A couple days later, Hooley found himself in Bristol, Conn., for two live appearances at SportsCenter’s studio.
“Having journalism as a background has made me more comfortable doing all of this,” Hooley said.
Hooley studies journalism at UAlbany and is a recent recipient of the prestigious Chancellors Award, and an honorable mention for The Rowley Award, a journalistic writing award for graduating journalism students. Hooley received an honorable mention after he wrote about his mother during her battle with cancer entitled, “Superheroes Are in Our Hearts.”
He attributes his experience at the UAlbany as a helpful resource when interacting with the media. Hooley’s basketball talents had certainly been tested that full- house afternoon at SEFCU Arena against Stony Brook, however his journalistic talents were just about to be given the ultimate test.
Paul Schwartz, UAlbany alum and New York Giants beat writer for the New York Post, asked Hooley to write something up for the newspaper. At the time, the Great Danes were in the airport getting ready to fly out to Columbus, Ohio for their NCAA Tournament game.
Hooley was given a six p.m. deadline and 750-word limit. He wrote the entire piece while flying. With teammates sleeping, he typed away. He used the plane WiFi and sent the piece off, in just one take, with no time to read it over before sending.
While the rest of the team strapped up for practice in Columbus, Hooley got an email back from the editors of the New York Post telling him some things he needed to revise, in 20 minutes. While the rest of the team was fueling their bodies, icing their ankles, Hooley had to make this deadline. Schwartz told Hooley, “think of it as another buzzer beater.”
Hooley let it fly.
On March 19, the story was printed on the back cover of the New York Post with the headline, “March hero writes his tale of heartbreak & triumph.”
He writes in his piece, “During the last few days, while Mum was in hospital, I would sit by her side, and we would just talk about everything. She made me promise her that no matter what, I would go back and finish what I started.”
Hooley and The Great Danes fell to the higher ranked Oklahoma 69-60 in the NCAA Tournament second round. Although a tough loss, Hooley and the Great Danes could look back at a season that tested each and every one of their strength, commitment, and love for one another. The Great Danes have completed a season that Sue Hooley can proudly look at and believe this is where her son is meant to be.
Peter holds onto his wrist and tells me he would love to play basketball for as long as he can. This summer he hopes to make the Australian National team and compete in the University Games. He says he will always write about his experiences, and even, “sappy love stories,” he adds. Hooley likes to think he got his writing voice from his mother, a woman of many quotes and verses, however now I’m sure he knows he gets his wings from her, too.