Like many 2020 college graduates figuring out their next step amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Nick Fruscio wasn’t sure what was ahead of him.
The popular UAlbany men’s basketball walk-on guard completed his undergraduate degree in communications last spring, but spent much of his summer in a holding pattern as he tried to figure out what to do.
Then, he got a phone call. A few conversations quickly followed, and — just like that — Fruscio had his answer.
“Two weeks later, I was headed down here,” Fruscio said Thursday in a phone interview.
That “here” is Greenville, North Carolina, where Fruscio arrived earlier this week — and where he will start his first position in the profession he’s always wanted to pursue, as the 22-year-old Albany native will serve as a graduate assistant for the East Carolina program that Joe Dooley helms.
“I’d been hanging around, and then this opportunity came around,” Fruscio said. “It’s a great opportunity, and I’m so happy it came along when it did.”
Fruscio scored 17 points in 44 minutes during a four-year UAlbany career that saw him spend most game time cheering wildly from the bench as he grew into becoming a fan favorite.
“Everybody has an ego,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said prior to last season’s senior-night game. “Everybody wants to play. Nick, he wants to help the team be successful. He’s never wavered from that. All he wants to do is win.”
Coaching was always where Fruscio was headed. His dad Brian Fruscio is one of the top high school coaches in New York at Albany Academy, while his uncle Rich Hurley — back coaching at Troy High School — belongs in that class, as well. Nick Fruscio said he also counts Albany City Rocks founder Jim Hart as one of his top coaching influences, while he credited the UAlbany coaching staff that Brown leads as the one that clinched for him that he wanted to pursue coaching at the college level as his profession.
“That really made me want to do this,” Fruscio said of his years with the Great Danes.
More than that, Fruscio said the opportunity to be a member of Brown’s program at UAlbany served as a critical first step toward him realizing his dream of one day becoming a Division I head coach.
“He just gave a kid a chance to go after his dream,” Fruscio said of Brown. “I wouldn’t be here if he didn’t let me be a walk-on.”
Fruscio will seek a graduate degree in a communications field at East Carolina, where he said he’ll report to director of player development Derek DeMasi. Fruscio said Troy native Hamlet Tibbs — a current Vermont assistant coach who coached at Albany Academy and with the City Rocks prior to joining the Catamounts’ staff — helped connect him with DeMasi.
In his role at East Carolina, Fruscio is likely to need to take on a variety of workmanlike tasks. There isn’t a lot of recognition to be had for a graduate assistant, but Fruscio is excited to get started — and knows that his experience as a walk-on at UAlbany will serve him well as he starts his first college coaching gig.
“Not being the main guy, you just do whatever is asked of you,” Fruscio said of his time as a walk-on player. “Doing whatever I can to help — that was my main objective at UAlbany. I just wanted to do whatever I could to help UAlbany be successful, and I want to keep that role here.”