Margoupis becomes first UAlbany men’s basketball commit in class of 2023

UAlbany men’s basketball during practice at UAlbany SEFCU Arena in Albany on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.
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UAlbany men’s basketball during practice at UAlbany SEFCU Arena in Albany on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

Every time Jack Margoupis takes the court, he’s carrying a message dedicated to one of the first people who believed in his dream to become a Division I men’s basketball player.

On Margoupis’ sneakers, and on a wristband, he scrawls the initials GUP — “Great Uncle Paul” — in tribute to his great-uncle, Paul Melia, who died in April 2020.

“That’s what motivates me every single day,” Margoupis said in a phone interview Thursday. “He passed away, but before anything ever happened, he told my mom that I was going to be a Division I athlete and choose a school that I was going to play basketball at, instead of just choosing the academic route.

“He predicted that before any of it happened.”

In a little more than a year, Margoupis will fulfill his great-uncle’s prophecy and bear those initials on a Division I basketball floor, as the 6-foot-8 wing recently made his verbal commitment to join UAlbany men’s basketball’s recruiting class of 2023 as head coach Dwayne Killings’ first recruit of the cycle.

A lanky, high-volume scorer, Margoupis will come to UAlbany out of Cushing Academy in Massachusetts. That’s the third high school stop for Margoupis, whose journey started in the small farm town of Sutton, Massachusetts, about 10 minutes outside of Worcester in the central part of the state.

That’s where his dreams of playing at the Division I level were hatched.

“I always wanted to be the first person out of my town to be able to play Division I basketball,” he said. “That was always the biggest thing that drove me. I wanted to be the first so bad that it almost affected me too much at times.

“I wanted people, like my little cousins who live in town, to look at that and say, ‘You really can do it out of a tiny little farm town, if you work hard enough.’”

Getting there wasn’t a smooth ride from the start. 

As a freshman at Sutton High, he spent most of the season on the junior varsity team, with a scant few minutes at the varsity level. At that point, he thought he’d end up a Division III player, “because that’s what everyone else around me was doing.”

He served as Sutton’s sixth man in 2019-20, but said he was often frustrated with his role on the team.

“That was tough on me,” Margoupis said. “I thought I was good enough to play at that time. My coach thought otherwise.”

It was on the AAU circuit with Team New England that Margoupis began to flourish and attract the attention of college coaches.

“That’s when everything started,” he said. “First day [college coaches] were able to reach out, I probably got calls from 25 Division I coaches, which was never really in the plan for a kid living in my area.”

Following a COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, Margoupis transferred to Marianapolis Prep in Connecticut and reclassified to 2023. This past spring, he made the decision to transfer to Cushing Academy for his final high school season.

All the while, UAlbany was one of the coaching staffs that kept in constant contact with Margoupis.

“Coach Killings has been great. He’s always calling, reaching out, checking on me,” said Margoupis, who chose to commit to UAlbany over a list of schools that included Bucknell, Gardner-Webb, USC Upstate and Colgate. “It was more than basketball with them. They’d have full conversations with me that didn’t even pertain to basketball. They cared about me as a person, which really stuck out.”

Former UAlbany assistant coach Hamlet Tibbs, who left the Great Danes this offseason for an assistant coaching job at Notre Dame, was Margoupis’ primary recruiter before departing the UAlbany program.

Margoupis said that his scoring ability from the wing is what makes him stand out. 

His 3-point shooting is what first got him noticed, but he’s made a concerted effort to work on attacking the basket and developing an effective mid-range game.

“I can score the basketball in a plethora of ways,” Margoupis said. “People know me for stepping out and shooting the 3, but recently I’ve been developing a mid-range game. If you can score at three levels, nobody can really guard you at that point.”

He’s still got one more year of high school ball to play, but Margoupis is greatly anticipating his arrival at UAlbany.

When he gets there, he’ll be flying the flag for tiny Sutton — and proudly repping Great Uncle Paul.

“I’m going to have ‘GUP’ written on my shoes the first time I step onto that court,” Margoupis said. “There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”

Categories: College Sports, Sports, Sports, UAlbany

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