Minutes after his team’s 2019-20 season was complete, UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown listed off what he knew his program needed to add heading into next season.
The Great Danes needed athleticism and length in the frontcourt.
“And we need guys that can create off the bounce on the perimeter,” Brown said after the Great Danes’ season-ending loss at Stony Brook in the quarterfinals of the America East Conference playoffs.
Earlier this week, UAlbany secured one of those perimeter players it badly needs after a 14-18 season in Jamel Horton, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard from Queens who spent the last two seasons at Pratt Community College in Kansas.
“I’m a downhill guard,” Horton said Thursday in a phone interview, two days after he made his verbal commitment to head to UAlbany. “This last year, I shot it a lot better than I had in the past. One of the better shooting seasons of my career. But I just try to keep pressure on defenses.”
Horton — who also had offers from America East rivals Stony Brook and UMBC, plus Towson of the CAA — will be able to play for the Great Danes right away, and has two seasons of playing eligibility remaining.
The 21-year-old mostly came off the bench in his one season playing at Pratt — he redshirted the previous season after attending Seward County Community College for a year — but averaged 17.3 points in 27.8 minutes per game. Horton made 39.8% of his field-goal attempts, including 33.3% of the 4.8 attempts from 3-point territory he took per game. Horton also averaged 5.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.
An injury-plagued season for the Great Danes closed with six straight defeats, as the program experienced its second consecutive losing season after posting winning marks in the previous seven campaigns. The team’s constant health-related issues affected it, especially with how the loss of redshirt junior Jojo Anderson (knee) took away a much-needed, ball-handling guard to help out senior Ahmad Clark.
With the graduation of Clark and addition of Horton, UAlbany heads into next season with three guards capable of creating off the dribble for themselves and others in incoming freshman Will Amica, Anderson and Horton. UAlbany has three remaining scholarships open for the 2020-21 season, and it’s likely the team will try to add at least one more guard with playmaking abilities.
Elsewhere on the perimeter, UAlbany already has multiple players with games more suited to scoring off the pass than the dribble, such as redshirt sophomore Cameron Healy and freshman Trey Hutcheson. Horton said he spoke with Clark before committing, and took confidence from seeing the degree to which Clark — who also played at the junior-college level prior to heading to UAlbany — was allowed to serve as a playmaker. As a senior, Clark led the Great Danes in scoring, minutes, assists and steals.
“That he was able to run his show, that played a part,” Horton said of his decision-making process.
Horton had planned to visit the UAlbany campus, but was unable to do that because of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s currently home in Queens finishing courses remotely at Pratt, but said he’s comfortable joining the Great Danes based on the relationships he’s formed with members of the coaching staff.
“I feel like they had the best opportunity for me to maximize my potential,” Horton said. “Those coaches showed me the most interest. They called me the most. They seemed the most interested in me.”
After attending Holy Cross High School, Horton did a prep year before heading to Seward. In between his season at Seward and his two years at Pratt, Horton briefly considered leaving basketball behind before continuing to chase his dream of playing Division I basketball.
“For me, personally, this is a comeback story,” Horton said. “I knew I could do it, but it’s a question of how it could happen, and when it could happen. I never doubted myself. It was just about if I could stick it out and make it happen.”
Horton did, and now heads into a situation where he could earn immediate minutes playing for the Great Danes.
“I think it’s a great fit,” Horton said.
Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.