ALBANY — It’s not just about Peter Hooley and his memorable, championship-winning shot from back in 2015.
For each one of the University at Albany men’s basketball team’s new freshmen players from Australia, it’s a different countryman who helped ease the decision to become a Great Dane.
For Cameron Healy, a 6-foot-3 guard from Sydney, it was the Rowley brothers — Mike and Sam — who he’d followed during their UAlbany careers.
A cup of coffee and conversation with Hooley about his experience at UAlbany helped convince Brent Hank, a 6-foot-10 forward from Port Lincoln, to make the trip.
Meanwhile, Adam Lulka, a 6-foot-8 forward from Sydney, sought out advice from Luke Devlin.
“He helped me understand what I’d go through here,” said Lulka, who will redshirt this season as he recovers from surgery on his left shoulder.
At this point, UAlbany’s flow of players from Australia comes via a well-established pipeline. It’s helped fuel head coach Will Brown’s program for a number of years. To keep that going, Brown said it was “critical” his team had at least one Australian player on its roster after having Mike Rowley graduate this past spring.
“But we weren’t going to take one just to take one,” Brown said at his program’s media day.
Lulka, who is expected back at practice in late January, is the one Brown said brings the most talent. Healy should provide depth on what’s already a crowded perimeter rotation featuring junior guards David Nichols and Joe Cremo, both all-conference performers last year in the America East. Hank could play right away for a team with only three healthy players listed at 6-foot-8 or taller.
“We’re excited about all three,” Brown said.
Australia is a fertile basketball area. It’s national team has placed as high as fourth in four Olympics since 1988, while a growing number of NBA players hail from the country. When picking between his offers, though, Healy said he “couldn’t really look past” how well fellow Australian had done playing for the Great Danes.
“It’s good to know there’s been a line of Australians here,” Hank agreed. “You’re so far away from your country.”
“They’re looking for comfort and a fit,” Brown said, “and I think that’s what we can provide.”
So far, the fit is there for Hank, Healy and Lulka — especially Hank. While senior Greig Stire decided that all three of the team’s freshmen need nicknames as part of their rookie years at UAlbany, only Hank’s “Big Tuna” has been coined.
“There’s been a few ideas thrown around [for Healy and Lulka], but they’ll probably get some eventually,” Hank said.
Hank’s nickname almost went a different way. A “Big Hot Pocket” moniker was brought up and — thankfully — never stuck.
“That was mentioned once,” Hank said, “but that hasn’t really caught on.”