Peter Hooley gave UAlbany basketball fans a sneak preview of his versatile and extremely dynamic skills during a trip to Canada, when he starred in a pair of exhibition games before the 2011-12 season.
He poured in 29 points against Ottawa, and added 12 points and five assists against Carleton. But a stress-fracture injury to his right foot limited his rookie season to just three games, and he ended up sitting out the rest of the year. wondering what might have been.
Fast forward to the second half of the 2012-13 campaign, and it’s a completely different story. After being inserted into the starting lineup for the last four games, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound redshirt freshman is ready for the main feature.
One of three Australians on the UAlbany roster, Hooley might have the most multi-faceted game on the team. He plays both guard positions, as well as the small-forward slot, is a strong defender, attacks the rim with a vengeance, is an outstanding distributor and has excellent scoring range.
Hooley’s break-out performance of 18 points and 12 rebounds against Hartford Saturday showed just how dangerous he can be on both ends of the court. He’ll be one of the players to watch when the Great Danes host Boston University in a key America East Conference game Wednesday night at SEFCU Arena.
UAlbany head coach Will Brown is not surprised that Hooley is contributing so much to the Great Danes’ 5-1, 16-4 season.
“It’s hard to get 18 points and 12 rebounds every night, especially from a perimeter player. Remember, he’s still technically a freshman,” Brown said.
“Peter is his own worst enemy sometimes, but when he maintains his focus, he’s hard to handle. At 6-4 and 195 pounds, he attacks the basket with authority. Mike [Black] and Jacob [Iati] are still scoring options No. 1 and No. 2, but Peter can get his shots, and other teams must be wary of him.”
Although Hooley sometimes gets into trouble with his aggressive drives to the basket, Brown said those out-of-control moments are becoming fewer and fewer.
“He makes more good decisions than bad ones,” Brown said. “He wouldn’t be a good gambler in Vegas. He has a confidence and a swagger to his game.”
Despite coming off the bench for the first 16 games, Hooley is a stat-book stuffer. He is fourth on the team in scoring (7.9 ppg), second in assists (54), third in minutes (25.0 pg) and first in free-throw percentage (81.4).
Ironically, although he was known more as a three-point shooting threat than a slasher when he excelled on the South Australia Under-20 team that won the bronze medal in the 2011 Australian National Championship, he has re-invented himself as an all-around player who can score from anywhere on the floor.
“You’ve got to remember that Peter was off the court rehabbing his injury for seven months. All he could do over that time was lift weights, and he became a lot stronger,” said Brown. “I think all the lifting helped strengthen his legs. We recruited him as an all-around player who could score, but I think he is finally getting his three-point shot back. He’s a rhythm shooter. When he gets his feet set, he can shoot the three very well.”
Hooley said he is just now becoming comfortable with being a full-time starter, and that’s one of the reasons why his three-point shot, always his bread-and-butter skill earlier in his career, is beginning to heat up.
“Coming off the bench, I was supposed to provide energy to the team straight away, but it’s harder to keep my focus for longer periods of time as a starter,” said Hooley. “I’m still a freshman, and it’s taken some time to get used to.”
Hooley said he relishes all the time he gets on the court, and he feels comfortable filling in at several positions, including point guard.
“I’ve always been a pass-first kind of guy, and I’ve always looked for the open man,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter what position I play. When you’ve got guys like Mike Black and Jacob Iati open on the wings, it’s pretty easy to find them with a pass.”
And after his career-high 18 points against the Hawks, Hooley thinks all of his offensive arsenal is finally intact.
“It’s funny, because I was always a three-point shooter before, but over here, that hasn’t been my go-to shot,” he said. “It’s all about confidence with me. The other night, I made my first couple of threes, and I felt great. The three-point shot has always been part of my game, but I’ve been concentrating more on attacking the rim over here, and it’s paid off.”
“Peter gets into the lane, can make the right pass and is a great finisher,” said Iati. “He’s a great player for us. All the Australians do a good job on this team.”
“What I like about Peter is that he can create his own shot and can find the open man,” said Brown.
Fellow Australians Sam Rowley and Luke Devlin round out the terrific Australian trio, with Rowley joining Hooley as a starter over the last four games and Devlin, a starter his first two seasons at UAlbany, coming off the bench.
“It’s a lot of fun playing on this team, right now,” said Hooley. “Our main focus is defense, and everybody on this team knows his role.”