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'Smart shots' are only shots for UAlbany men's basketball's Charles

'Smart shots' are only shots for UAlbany men's basketball's Charles

Fifth-year senior is 'The Walking Bucket' for Great Danes
'Smart shots' are only shots for UAlbany men's basketball's Charles
UAlbany's Travis Charles goes for a shot during Saturday's game at SEFCU Arena.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

ALBANY — It sounds simple.

Easy, even.

But if it were, every player would do it.

And they don’t.

That’s what makes University at Albany men’s basketball fifth-year senior Travis Charles a special player for the Great Danes, an offensive threat whose approach could not be more direct.

“I,” Charles explained, “just try to take smart shots.”

Lots of players will say they do that. The thing is, Charles doesn’t “just try.”

He does.

Charles is the rare player who knows what he’s good at and — perhaps more importantly — what he’s not good at. He embraces the former and doesn’t worry about the latter, a departure from many players.

“That’s a compliment because there’s so many kids that want to do things that they’re not good at doing just to try to prove a point to you,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said. “Travis keeps it simple. He’s effective, he’s efficient, and while our defense has been up and down this year, we’ve been able to win because of our offense because of the consistency we’re getting from him.”

Charles, whose 11-2 Great Danes play 9 p.m. Wednesday at Louisville, is averaging 14.9 points and 5.5 rebounds this season. He’s the team’s No. 3 offensive option behind juniors Joe Cremo (17.8 points per game) and David Nichols (15.7 points per game), and Charles is thriving in that role. The guy his coaches and teammates call “The Walking Bucket” has made 61.3 percent of his shots this season, which ranked No. 34 in the nation heading into this week’s games, and only four players ranked ahead of him had taken more shots than him. While Cremo and Nichols attract the bulk of attention from opposing defenses and have license to shoot whenever they’re open, Charles sticks to mid-range jumpers — he’s automatic from the elbows — and layups.

He doesn’t shoot off the dribble.

He passes when he's doubled.

The next 3-pointer he takes will be his first as a Great Dane.

And he’s fine with that.

Better than fine, really.

“You want to stick to your bread-and-butter, right?” Charles said.

Sure, but not everyone does.

“He’s old-school,” Brown said. “He knows what he is, know what his strengths are, and he plays to his strengths.”

Charles said he’s always had a knack for shooting 15-footers and the 235 pounds he packs onto his 6-foot-6 frame helps him finish around the rim through contact. He credits his high school coaches, such as Dwayne “Tiny” Morton at Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln, for helping him develop patience within the offensive framework of a team-oriented attack.

“I was lucky and blessed to learn to have patience,” Charles said.

At UAlbany, he’s also embraced statistics. The Great Danes track their players’ shots throughout the offseason, compiling data to see who shoots what from where. From 12-to-17 feet away from the basket, Charles shot nearly 80.0 percent on uncontested shots during the offseason — approximately 20.0 percent better than he did from a foot or more farther back.   

“And he knows that, so he doesn’t try to shoot 3s — or 18-foot jump shots, really,” Brown said. “He plays to his strengths and that’s a rarity these days.”

Charles, who averaged 7.9 points per game last season on 61.3 percent shooting, has scored 11 or more points in 11 of UAlbany’s game this season despite averaging only 9.5 shots per game. Heading into UAlbany’s game against Louisville, Charles is coming off a career-high 24 points he scored on 10 of 16 shooting.

So, does Charles come away from that performance against Canisius looking to expand his role?

No.

He made that clear right after Saturday’s win when he laughed off the news he’d set a new career-high in points for the second time this season.

“I don’t care,” Charles said. “We won.”

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter. For more college basketball coverage, head to dailygazette.com/blogs/the-outlet.

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