Hooley touched by an angel

Players and coaches deal with injuries and the uncertainty and disruption that come with them all th

Players and coaches deal with injuries and the uncertainty and disruption that come with them all the time.

Even if there’s no formula, at least they have experience to lean on when somebody goes down.

Get a diagnosis, examine what steps need to be taken, set a timetable, no matter how vague it may be, and play the waiting game.

But what do you do when you lose a player to something much more complicated, uncertain and devastating than an ankle sprain or twisted knee?

As the UAlbany basketball team and junior guard Peter Hooley are discovering, it’s possible that the best cure is to simply get back on the court.

Hooley played at SEFCU Arena for the first time since Jan. 14 on Tuesday.

Since then, he has had to endure the death of his mother, Susan, after a four-year battle with colon cancer. Hooley flew home to Adelaide, Australia, in January, surprised his mom at the hospital, then watched as she gradually went through the final stages of her disease.

He said speaking at her funeral was the most difficult thing he has ever had to do.

He got through it. And he’s back.

Last Wednesday, Hooley, who was leading the America East in minutes played before the 3 1⁄2 weeks away, flew back to the States with his father, Jeff, and twin sister, Emma, to rejoin the Great Danes in time for Friday’s win at New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Stony Brook was not under contract to cooperate with what would have been the Great Danes’ preferred narrative on Tuesday, handing UAlbany an America East loss for the first time this season, 59-56.

It will take awhile before Hooley is back in a basketball sense, but he’s back in spirit, testing a threshhold of pain that doesn’t frequently arise in the middle of a season.

“There was never any doubt whether I would come back,” he said on Monday. “Dad and I always promised her that I was coming back to finish off what I started. As soon as I got back home, the first day, and surprised her in the hospital, she said, ‘You know, you have a game tomorrow.’ I was never planning on not coming back.”

“It feels like the team is whole again,” senior Sam Rowley said.

“It’s just hard for their family, so that’s something I’m trying to watch closely, is where is he at?” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said. “How is he feeling? What is he thinking? And that’s something that I don’t want to bother him with over and over, but I also want to make sure he’s OK.”

Brown said he wants to use Hooley perhaps 10-12 minutes a game until he gets his basketball legs back.

He’s such an important player, though, that temptation has already overpowered reason and patience twice.

Hooley, who was leading the conference at 35.6 minutes played through the first 15 games of the season, scored 10 points in 17 minutes against NJIT and played 17 minutes against Stony Brook, also.

For the most part, though, they were a forgettable 17 minutes.

He was 1-for-4 for three points, and would’ve been on the bench for the final 8:31 of the game if Brown hadn’t decided to send him in with 5.9 seconds left to serve as a decoy.

“He’s not coming in here with a cape and a mask on,” Brown said. “It’s going to be frustrating for him. It’s tough on me, because I’ve got to figure out how to use him.

“He’s not ready to play at the level he’s accustomed. It’s just a fact. Every shot he took was a three, and if you know anything about Peter, he attacks and gets to the free-throw line. He’s just not ready to do that right now.”

Nevertheless, it was easy to see how important being back with the team is helping the healing process. If Hooley can get his fitness and sharpness all the way back by the conference tournament, Brown said he’d settle for that.

Hooley got a standing ovation when the PA announcer welcomed him and his father and sister back before opening tip.

He came off the bench with 14:31 left in the first half and was a part of the regular rotation, but it was a rocky performance.

The Great Danes had a good thing going while Hooley was in Australia, winning all nine games in his absence, and he said the last thing he wanted to do was mess with that groove.

By then, his teammates had been wearing his mom’s initials on their jerseys.

Asked to describe her, Hooley said, “Phew. That’s tough. She’s an angel for me. She’s everything for me. She never said a bad word about anyone, that’s for sure. She made sure that I always knew that making others happy is the best feeling you could ever get.

“I could be here for an hour to answer that question, to be honest.”

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