The final curtain call of the Sam Rowley show
By Megan Salle
April 14, 2015
“When I got here it was such a lofty goal just to go to one championship or one NCAA Tournament, but the idea of going to three never crossed my mind,” Sam Rowley said. “It’s kind of crazy when you think about it.”
Rowley finished his last season playing on the University at Albany men’s basketball team with three America East championship rings and three trips to the NCAA Tournament. He capped off his years with quite the resume and reputation as a leader, a bookworm and protector of his teeth.
The Division I UAlbany career rebounding leader had a way of leading by example. “I always think my personal leadership is less is more,” said Rowley
The “more” this year was leading his team on a 13-game winning streak as their leading scorer traveled back home to be with his family.
“I think the rest of the team just followed the Sam Rowley show at that time,” junior guard Peter Hooley said. “You can go back and look at those games I missed and what he did was pretty incredible.”
Head coach Will Brown said, “He is not overly vocal.” But Sam’s brother and teammate, Mike Rowley, explained a moment the team had in a pregame huddle during Hooley’s absence.
“[Sam] talked about what UAlbany and basketball kind of meant to Pete’s family as a whole,” Mike Rowley said. “He told us how important it was and it would be disrespectful if we didn’t play how Pete would want us to play. I thought that was a big thing Sam did.”
Coach Brown spoke about Rowley’s performance, “I think Sam’s teammates fed off his energy and followed his lead. I got the sense Sam was a man on a mission.”
By the end of the season, Rowley earned himself a spot on the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) 2014-15 District I Second Team. He received America East All-Conference First Team, All Tournament Team and All-Academic honors as well.
For the first time since the 2005-06 season, the Great Danes were crowned regular season champions with a program-best 15 conference wins, with eight coming on the road.
Rowley talked about how fun the bus trips were and one particular trip came to mind. Last year in the America East Championship game, UAlbany defeated Stony Brook on the road 69-60. But the victory wasn’t all the entertainment on the bus ride home.
“For the first hour everyone was talking and then for the next two hours I was just reading my book,” Rowley said.
The graduating senior said he reads, “all different kinds, fiction and non-fiction. I kind of like science books without getting into much detail.”
All the reading makes Coach Brown hesitant to answer the same question as Rowley during press conferences.
“You just were not going to sound nearly as good and you definitely were not going to have as well thought out of an answer as Sam,” Coach Brown said. “His studies are very important to him and he has excelled while pursuing a double major.”
The Australian native majors in math and business, but another important feature to him are his teeth. Everyone on the team knew it after a practice earlier this year. The Rowley brothers went one-on-one in the paint and while Mike was trying to make a move around his older brother, his head collided with Sam’s front tooth.
“I thought [Sam] was going to go after Mike until he realized Mike’s head was split open and that he needed stitches,” Brown said. “I am sure they had some interesting battles growing up, but I was getting ready to protect Mike because Sam was livid.”
“I’m not going to lie I thought my tooth was chipped way worst than it was, so I was pretty upset,” Sam said.
After many jokes about that day in practice, Mike said, “Basically, moral of the story is Sam overreacted.”
Despite the short confrontation between the two brothers, Mike was at a loss in describing how he felt about playing without Sam next season. But Hooley will keep his legacy strong.
“I think the way he grew over the four years here, is something I still tell people as they come in.” Hooley said. “When people look at Sam he played like two minutes a game his freshman year and he’s ended up being one of the most decorated players to ever play here. The whole Albany community will remember him for a long time.”