In the days after Peter Hooley sunk a game-winning 3-pointer to send the University at Albany men’s basketball team to this year’s NCAA tournament, he was in heavy demand. The dramatic shot, made just weeks after the passing of his mother back in his native Australia, turned Hooley into an American star both inside and outside the Capital Region.
But it was just more than four years ago that Hooley was a nobody, basketball-wise, in the United States. He couldn’t get a sniff of attention from the people he needed: college coaches.
That left Hooley — who has one season left with the Great Danes this winter while he takes graduate-level classes — to send out emails to coaches with his hoops resume and highlight reel, hoping one might be looking for a guard with a soft touch. Several associates also made contacts on Hooley’s behalf, trying to find him a place to play college ball.
“When you don’t have college coaches going to your games, you have to do those things,” Hooley said.
While some high school athletes are well-recruited, most with the ambition to play college athletics are either lightly-recruited or not at all. That leaves them to find coaches’ email addresses, make highlight tapes, and send out “Dear Coach” emails with hopes of getting lucky and getting a response.
“That’s the norm today,” said longtime Siena College baseball coach Tony Rossi. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t get five, 10 emails from kids — that would be a slow day, actually.”
Brian Beaury, the men’s hoops coach at the College of Saint Rose, takes it much further.
“We get in excess of 100 contacts a day,” he said. “It’s overwhelming — so overwhelming that we cannot even begin to manage the amount of information.”
So much of it, too, is worth little to a college coach. While Rossi has had some success with finding players through his email account — he said he has six players on his 2016 roster who contacted him first — Beaury said most of what fills his account could qualify as spam.
“Oftentimes, we just delete them,” he said.
While discussing this subject for approximately 30 minutes, Beaury said he received six emails from prospects reaching out to him. Beaury said he dislikes not being able to respond to each note, but the large number of queries he gets from unqualified candidates makes it difficult to find the serious kids he’d like to, at the very least, acknowledge with a reply email. There have been spans of time when he opens each note, but those chunks of effort usually end when he comes across his latest email from someone sending him highlight clips and statistics from an intramural league.
“I really mean it,” Beaury said. “It’s out of control.”
Emails like those are amongst the ones local athletes such as Michael Blond and Tommy Kelly have competed with while attempting to “recruit themselves” to a college. Blond graduated from Shenendehowa earlier this year and is now playing football for Wagner University, while Kelly will play his senior season of basketball for Niskayuna High School this winter.
The process of emailing out his highlight reel and resume worked for Blond — eventually. Blond, a long snapper, estimated he contacted about 100 different schools during his search and had about “a quarter” of his emails receive a reply.
“And, sometimes, it would just be an auto-reply,” Blond said. “But, every once in a while, I’d get a coach saying he’d want to contact me back.”
Blond found his place with a Division I FCS program, but Kelly is more open with his search. The level, he said, does not matter to him, as long as the school offers him the chance to play hoops while studying communications and sports management.
“Ever since I started playing basketball, playing college basketball was my goal — at any level,” Kelly said. “That part doesn’t really matter to me. College basketball is college basketball.”
Niskayuna’s Kelly, who stands a bit under 6-foot tall, missed part of his junior season, a critical year for any athlete in the recruiting game. To try to make up for that, Kelly spent a good chunk of his summer going to exposure camps and sending out one email after another.
Like Blond, Kelly mostly did not receive meaningful responses — that is, until mid-August when he heard back from Albright College, a Division III school in Reading, Pa., he had targeted with several attempted contacts and where he played in a camp this summer.
Before UAlbany began recruiting Hooley — the Great Danes, ironically, were one of the few schools to make a first contact with Hooley — the guard said the approaches Blond and Kelly took were similar in mindset to the one he took.
Hooley’s advice for any player in a similar situation is to go for it.
“Don’t be afraid to market yourself if that’s the way it has to be,” he said. “If you keep playing in enough leagues, people will find you. And, don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith.”
That advice works for coaches, too. Every now and then, Beaury said he goes back through his email to see if any of the players he ignored have become names he now recognizes. In nearly every instance, his account’s roster has turned out to be a weak one — but he still kicks himself over an email he received in January 2011.
“Peter Hooley-Australian Prospect,” is how the email’s subject line reads.
That email, Beaury said, never received a response. At the time, the coach and his staff did not have the resources or contacts to give serious consideration to a player from Australia. Hooley’s note, though, has been kept as a reminder for Beaury and his staff to try to check out as many leads as possible.
“He’d probably be an All-American for us,” Beaury said of Hooley.