ALBANY — Her senior basketball season at Saratoga Springs High School was played after a lengthy delay because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Without that campaign, an abbreviated one that lasted just longer than a month for Section II athletes, Abby Ray isn’t sure she’d be at UAlbany preparing to play her freshman season of Division I women’s basketball now.
“That school season was so important for me,” Ray said recently.
A 5-foot-8 guard, Ray is one of four freshmen getting ready for the 2021-22 season with head coach Colleen Mullen’s program, which wrapped up its summer workouts last week. While a standout for the Blue Streaks, circumstances led to Ray flying somewhat under the radar during her high school career. For most of her varsity career, she played with either one or two older guards — Dolly Cairns (Rhode Island) and Kerry Flaherty (Holy Cross) — who were also Division I-caliber athletes, and the timing of the pandemic essentially erased the critical recruiting period between a player’s junior and senior seasons for Ray.
So Ray played nearly all of her senior season without knowing where she’d head for college. Her commitment to UAlbany came during her senior season, which started in February — nearly four months after it was supposed to begin with preseason practices.
“I really didn’t get seen very much at all. Nobody in my class really did since we didn’t have those [AAU] tournaments and coaches couldn’t watch us,” said Ray, who was a member of the Albany City Rocks program. “It was tough for my teammates and I. . . . A lot of us didn’t have [scholarships] offers, but, luckily, UAlbany saw me when I was a bit younger and knew I wasn’t committed, so they reached out again.”
Earlier this summer, Mullen said Ray showed as a senior the ability to play point guard at the Division I level. It was fortunate for the Great Danes, Mullen said, that Ray demonstrated that not far from UAlbany’s campus.
“We think we got a diamond in the rough with her,” Mullen said. “We think she’s someone who can develop into a special player.”
Ray is majoring in biology at UAlbany, which finished 7-11 last season and made it to the America East semifinals. The 18-year-old Ray is one of several options for Mullen in replacing the team’s veteran starting point guard Kyara Frames, who transferred to George Washington. Besides the departure of Frames, UAlbany’s other four starters — Lucia Decortes, Helene Haegerstrand, Ellen Hahne and Grace Heeps — return from last season.
This summer, Ray said she tried to make the most of the Great Danes’ offseason workouts in terms of learning the college game.
“It’s a lot tougher than high school,” said Ray, a second-team selection last season in the Suburban Council. “But we worked really hard. The energy was always up, and it was a really good time.”
Ray said she attended many UAlbany games over the years as a fan, but she wasn’t able to make an official recruiting visit to the school’s campus because of pandemic-related restrictions. That meant Ray only met the majority of her teammates when summer workouts started in late July.
“But they took me right in,” Ray said. “It’s really a family atmosphere here.”