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Cremo, Nichols leaving UAlbany men's basketball program

Cremo, Nichols leaving UAlbany men's basketball program

Team's star backcourt won't be back next season
Cremo, Nichols leaving UAlbany men's basketball program
Joe Cremo and David Nichols are transferring.
Photographer: File photo

ALBANY — When his junior season ended for the University at Albany men’s basketball program earlier this month, Joe Cremo didn’t hide his emotions.

His eyes welled and his voice shook as he worked his way through his final answer at the night’s post-game press conference.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Cremo said, “so just got to come back a better player next year.”

But that won’t be at UAlbany.

Shocking news broke Thursday night — first reported on WNYT — that both Cremo and backcourt partner David Nichols are leaving UAlbany. Cremo, who led Scotia-Glenville to a pair of state championships during his high school career, and Nichols each confirmed their departures in separate telephone interviews. That duo made up what America East coaches often described as the league’s best backcourt this past season.

“We’re each making the decision that’s best for each of us,” Cremo said.

“It was just best for both sides. I appreciate everything [UAlbany] did for me,” Nichols said. “They put me in position to succeed ever since I got here. All the coaches were great. Coach Brown was great to me.”

Cremo and Nichols, both juniors who landed on the conference’s all-academic team, are on track to graduate this spring and will be immediately eligible to play next season as graduate transfers. Both players said they would like to pursue playing in a major conference and that a variety of factors played into their decisions to leave.

“I can’t point to just one,” Nichols said.

Thursday’s departures from UAlbany came a day after UAlbany head coach Will Brown confirmed in a text message that reserves Xavier Cochran and Matt Conway were leaving the program. The departure of those four players plus the team’s four seniors leaves UAlbany with only five returning scholarship players for next season — and three of those players redshirted the 2017-18 campaign. The team’s top-four scorers from the 2017-18 season will not be back in 2018-19.

Brown did not respond to requests for comment Thursday about Cremo and Nichols leaving the Great Danes.

“It’s nothing personal. It’s about what’s best for me,” Cremo said. “[Brown] loves me as a player and a person, and he truly cares about me. I told him I care a lot about you and this team, but at the end of the day, I wanted to take this chance.”

“Coach Brown was great through it all,” Nichols said. “He did nothing but try to help me.”

An athletic department spokesman texted Thursday night that Cremo and Nichols “are currently still on our roster. We have no further comment at this time.”

Cremo was a first-team all-conference selection this season in the America East. He averaged 17.8 points per game during his junior season, plus 4.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists. He also shot 45.8 percent from 3-point territory.

In his junior season, Nichols averaged 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

Both players scored their 1,000th point during the 2017-18 season.

Cremo finished his junior season with 1,469 career points, leaving him at No. 8 all-time on UAlbany’s scoring list and at No. 5 since the program started playing at the Division I level. If he had stayed at UAlbany, Cremo had an outside chance at catching the program’s all-time leading scorer Jamar Wilson, who scored 2,164 points from 2002 to 2007.

Both Cremo and Nichols never played in an NCAA tournament, though, during their time at UAlbany. This past season started with great promise, but the Great Danes experienced an up-and-down 10-6 America East season before getting bounced in the conference tournament’s quarterfinals to finish at 22-10.

After that final game against Stony Brook, Cremo said he crouched down on the court and thought about another season ending without an NCAA tournament bid.

“Damn,” Cremo thought. “I’m 0 for 3.”

Later, he added about his UAlbany career: “I feel like I’ve given it all I’ve got. . . . It’s about finding a place now that’s a fresh start and a new opportunity.”

“We didn’t accomplish what we needed to — to be up to Albany’s standards,” Nichols said. “So that’s disappointing.”

Besides being backcourt mates, Cremo and Nichols are roommates. Each said he independently came to his decision to transfer, but both players said they kept the other in the loop as they figured out their decisions for next season.

“At the end of the day,” Cremo said, “we look out for each other and love each other.”

“There definitely was an open line of communication,” Nichols said.

The next few weeks for both players will be “very hectic,” as Nichols put it. Besides finding new places to play, both said they will continue to work on their games. Cremo said he spent a good chunk of Thursday night working out in SEFCU Arena.

Both players said there is no firm timeline for making a decision about where each will play next.

“For me, I’m going to enjoy the process,” Cremo said. “I’m going to get as much information as I can and visit where I want to visit.”

Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

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