ALBANY — Every player has it to some degree, but UAlbany’s Helene Haegerstrand’s might be the best.
The look of confidence when shooting, before the basketball even leaves a player’s fingers.
When her eyes are laser-focused on the rim, the form follows and most often what follows is a swish and cheers.
Haegerstrand has done that a lot during her four years at UAlbany, but during the women’s basketball team’s last few games, the 6-foot-1 senior forward from Stockholm, Sweden, has been especially prolific at scoring. In her last three games, she scored 23, 28 and 16 points, respectively, against Bryant, NJIT and Binghamton. She has 1,095 career points. UAlbany’s women’s basketball records are incomplete, but it is known she is either 10th or 11th on the school’s all-time scoring list.
Haegerstrand has been an efficient shooter this season, too. She leads the America East conference with a .519 field-goal percentage, including a .429 percentage on 3-pointers, where she’s 27 for 63. Against NJIT, she was 10 for 11 from the field, and in three of her last four games, she shot at least 55% from the field.
To know this UAlbany team, it’s no surprise that she had no idea or concern that she recently surpassed 1,000 points. Teammate Morgan Haney actually texted her about the feat first. She did say that her family was “super excited” to learn she’d done it.
“And I want to say they weren’t really aware, either, until it came down really close,” Haegerstrand said. “So that’s nothing we really knew or were talking about. But my team is really sweet. They’re all really excited for me. So that made it a lot more fun, for sure.”
“She’s a huge asset,” Haney said. “And it’s not just on the court. Off the court she really is, like, the glue of the team. She’s just a great friend and a great person in general.”
Haegerstrand is well known throughout the league. In her freshman season, she made the America East All-Rookie Team. In her sophomore season, she was America East Third Team All-Conference. Last season, it was first team All-Conference. It’s hard to envision her not being on the first team again this season.
In talking about her, coach Colleen Mullen remembered going to Sweden to visit with her and her family.
“From the minute I met her and her family, I knew that they were just wonderful people,” Mullen said. “And since Helene’s come here, she’s really been everything that’s been advertised about her leadership skills. Immediately, just since her freshman year, you know, being named to the all-rookie team, but I still remember her and Amanda [Kantzy] talking in Swedish and Amanda explaining to her, like, what I’m talking about; the different terminology. And now, fast forward four years and she’s telling everybody else what to do. Just a complete player.”
Haegerstrand, who’s second among America East players in scoring average, has battled injuries throughout her college career, but said the chance to play over the summer helped her this season.
“I think it helped me a lot to play a lot during the summer, coming back and being more healthy than I’ve been, and just getting in the work,” Haegerstrand said.
Offense naturally catches one’s eyes the most, but Haegerstrand said she has worked the hardest on improving her post defense during her time at UAlbany.
“That has been a huge thing for me since I got here, defending these big girls that are in our conference, something I didn’t do well at all to begin with,” Haegerstrand said. “And I tried to look at what the upperclassmen were doing, learn from Lucia (Decortes), who is a great defensive stopper in the post. And when she got injured last year, that was something I really had to take on for the [league] championship, the last few games.”
Haney said Haegerstrand’s versatility is a comforting asset to the team.
“She can score at all three levels; I mean, the girl can shoot,” Haney said. “But, you know, she can also defend another team’s best players. She’s just a great overall player. And it’s just huge that we have someone that we can really rely on and go to. It really helps get us going and stay confident.”
Haegerstrand said she came to UAlbany with no expectations, but almost can’t believe how well everything turned out.
“I was trying to take it for what it is, day by day, and see what I can do to make the best out of it,” Haegerstrand said. “And then how it turned out – it’s nothing like I could have ever imagined with the support system and all the people here since I’ve been here. It’s about to be four years that flew by.”
Contact Will Springstead at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @WLSpringstead.