University at Albany sophomore guard Peter Hooley is both unpredictable and unfazed.
You never know exactly what to expect from the native of Hahndorf, Australia. One minute, he is swooping to the basket at full-speed, not caring how he will land once he reaches the rim. A little later, he’s releasing a long three-pointer that’s almost a throwback to the old set shot. He’s always fun to watch, and when the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder is on his game, he can fill up a scoresheet very quickly — with points, assists and rebounds.
Hooley is coming off a career-high 21 points against Duquesne Wednesday night, and he’s hoping to still have a hot hand tonight when the Great Danes host Bucknell at SEFCU Arena.
Outgoing and candid, Hooley is never at a loss for words. He loves showing off his distinctive style, both on the court with his unorthodox moves, and off of it, with colorful clothing and shoes.
“He’s not too serious. He’s very much the extrovert,” said junior forward Sam Rowley, one of Hooley’s three Australian compatriots. “He wears his heart on his sleeve, and he’s quite an emotional guy, in a good way. I think he’s the most outgoing of all of us Australians. You are never going to struggle to get a few words out of Peter.”
“I’ve always been outgoing,” said Hooley. “I definitely try to take things less seriously, especially since my Mom has been ill. It’s much easier to take the good sides of everything rather than the bad side.”
Hooley, who can play both guard positions, as well as the small-forward slot, has been a scoring whiz all of his life. He averaged 35 points for his high school team, and then produced 19.4 ppg to help his club team win a bronze medal in the Australian National Championships.
After sitting out nearly the entire 2011-12 season because of a stress fracture in his right foot, he was an integral part of last year’s America East Conference championship team by scoring eight points a game overall, and 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds once he became a starter late in the year.
So far, through four games in a 2-2 UAlbany start, Hooley is averaging 14.8 points and playing a team-high 35.5 minutes per outing. He tops the Great Danes in three-pointers with seven, and is converting 85.7 percent of his free throws.
But it wasn’t easy to change his game from the free-flowing more individualistic style he played back in Australia.
“It was pretty tough to make that transition,” he said. “It’s more physical and more fast-paced here. The whole college basketball scene is different back home. Back home, you do a lot more individual stuff, and you spread it out. There was less structure. Here, there is much more structure to both the offense and the defense. You’ve got to buy into that culture to be successful, and I certainly have.”
That being said, Hooley is never shy about changing plans on the fly.
“I’ve been a pretty good improviser my whole life,” he said. “I try to make something happen to help our team. It’s all about finding a happy medium and keeping coach happy. Sometimes, it pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t. During a game, it’s hard to figure out when to be aggressive and when not to, but I watch every game on film when I’m done, and I try to analyze it. I try to figure out what I should do better, and I think I’m adapting more.
“I’ve always been able to score in a variety of ways,” he aid. “My coach back in Australia always told me that if I had enough variety in my game, it would be hard for another team to guard me, even if they scouted me well.”
“His aggressiveness and attack mindset is his biggest strength and also his biggest weakness, said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “Early in the game, and early in the second half, you can take some gambles, but when you get down to the last four or five minutes of the game, you have to maximize every possession. You can’t roll the dice. We want to make sure we get the shot we want, and when we want it. At that time, we don’t need the spectacular play, just the smart play. I think Peter is learning that.”
Brown said he needs Hooley to be more thoughtful with his actions, especially when he shifts to point guard if starter D.J. Evans is out of the lineup.
“He’s had some situations when he’s had the ball in his hands late in the game, and that’s an adjustment for him. He has to learn to channel that energy,” said Brown.
But the coach loves Hooley’s scoring mentality.
“He makes open shots. He’s a guy who makes plays,” said Brown. “He’s good when he gets out in transition. He makes free throws at a high rate, and he can attack and put pressure on the defense. He’s also a good three-point shooter. One thing we’re working on, though, and it’s probably the toughest thing, is his mid-range jump shot. Very few guys can really master it nowadays. We’ve got him shooting a floating set shot right now, but we’ve got to get him off the floor a little more.”
Hooley, who scored 17 points against Siena in the season opener, has been the Great Danes’ leading scorer in two of their first four games. He’s capable of big scoring outputs, but he can be streaky.
“He’s not the most athletically gifted guy,” said Rowley with a smile. “But his game suits that. He’s very deceiving. He’s improved his shot greatly, and he’s a great driver. He uses different angles to the basket and changes his feet on his drives very well. He sort of catches you by surprise. You wouldn’t think he could beat you off the dribble, but he can.”
“He struggled shooting the ball in the first few games, but he’s made some big shots lately,” added Brown. “It’s only a matter of time for him. Remember, he’s only a sophomore. He’s got a lot to learn, but he’s a good player.”