ALBANY — Joanna Bernabei-McNamee was set to enter the 2017-18 season, her second as the University at Albany women’s basketball coach, with an open scholarship.
Then, a worthy player from down the street fell into her program’s lap.
“How great is that?” Bernabei-McNamee said after her team’s practice Sunday.
That player? Cece Mayo, who graduated from Shaker High School last spring.
“She’s a great player, and she fits what we do,” Bernabei-McNamee said.
Mayo had committed to Army and completed her six weeks of basic training before deciding she wanted to pursue a different collegiate path. With help from Army head coach Dave Magarity, Mayo landed at UAlbany and is eligible to play immediately, since she did not take any classes at West Point.
“He contacted schools for me,” said Mayo, who made her switch after deciding she wants to work in law enforcement rather than joining the military after her playing days. “Coach Mac reached out and, so, here I am.”
Magarity’s daughter — Maureen Magarity — is the head coach at America East rival New Hampshire, but Bernabei-McNamee said the Wildcats did not have an open scholarship for this season. Mayo arrived at UAlbany in late August.
“She’s good to go this year, and she’s on scholarship,” Bernabei-McNamee said.
Originally, Mayo said she had not considered either UAlbany or Siena because of a desire to go to college away from home.
“My house is literally five minutes from here,” said Mayo, a Latham native.
A conversation with Bernabei-McNamee and her coaching staff changed Mayo’s mind when she was looking for a new school.
“They made me feel so wanted and welcome,” Mayo said.
A post player in high school, Mayo is likely to be used on the perimeter for the Great Danes. Bernabei-McNamee said Mayo is a “work in progress,” but could see her contributing as a freshman.
“Her athleticism really makes her,” Bernabei-McNamee said.
Mayo said she’s been working on her conditioning and ball-handling skills as she prepares for her first season of college hoops. Going from playing in the post to out on the perimeter will include some growing pains, but she’s confident she can make the switch.
“I’m ready to put the work in,” Mayo said.