ALBANY — During his freshman year with the UAlbany men’s basketball program, Cameron Healy didn’t create enough space to receive a pass during an intrasquad scrimmage.
That — and the resulting turnover — didn’t sit well with Travis Charles, a then-redshirt senior on the Great Danes who let Healy know it.
“And he just grabbed me and pushed me, and he told me: ‘You need to get open like a man,’” Healy said.
Now a redshirt junior, Healy fondly remembered that moment Wednesday prior to the Great Danes starting up a practice at SEFCU Arena.
“He was either going to accept me turning the ball over . . . or he’s going to say something and it’s going to [cause] a change,” Healy said of Charles’ mindset.
Coming off a 14-18 season, Healy said the Great Danes know things need to be different for this upcoming season. As the team’s top returning scorer and in his fourth season with head coach Will Brown’s program, Healy said he knows he’s a natural candidate to provide leadership this season for the Great Danes — and that the team needs several players to step up to fill the leadership void created with the graduation of Ahmad Clark, last season’s UAlbany leader in points, assists, steals and minutes played.
“We all have to step up,” Healy said. “I think how it works is, you have people that demand greatness from the team. That’s what leadership is, and, basically, if other people aren’t stepping up to that level, you’ve got to make a decision: You’re either going to lose, or someone is going to step up and take accountability.”
Healy didn’t shy away from taking accountability late last season when his normally true shot betrayed him as he dealt with a back/hips injury that derailed his season. After a start to the season that looked likely to land him as a first-team all-conference player, Healy scored 35 combined points in his last seven regular-season games as he struggled with his mobility. He didn’t complain, though, and kept competing — and willed his way to a game-high 28 points in UAlbany’s first-round playoff loss at Stony Brook.
Brown said the most important thing Healy can do for the Great Danes is play up to his normal standards now that he’s back healthy. On a team with eight newcomers, though, Brown said he’s appreciated the sweet-shooting guard’s approach during the preseason.
“He’s matured,” Brown said of Healy, who averaged 14.2 points per game as a redshirt sophomore despite his late-season struggles. “It’s all about growth and development, and he’s done a good job in that area.”
In the past, Healy hasn’t been a captain for the Great Danes. Having — or not having — that designation, he said, won’t change his approach to the upcoming season.
“I think, this year, especially, we’re going to have to figure out things and I’d rather voice my opinion if it’s going to help the team, [rather] than lose,” Healy said.
UAlbany is now in the second week of its formal preseason. The program is still operating with significant restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic and won’t conduct a full-contact practice until Nov. 2, but Healy said the Great Danes understand they can still get better every day as they prepare for their 2020-21 season.
Healy said the on-court example set by former teammates such as Charles and Devonte Campbell — the former a 2018 graduate, the latter a 2019 graduate — informs how he’s treating the upcoming season. Nobody ever questioned the attitude or effort of those players, and Healy said he’s trying to provide that every-minute-counts example for his teammates.
“If I can just focus on being the best version of myself for this team,” Healy said, “I think that’s going to help us.”