ALBANY — During her first season leading the UAlbany women’s basketball program, head coach Colleen Mullen came to admire the hard-nosed, hustle-based style of play that forward Amanda Kantzy brought to the court.
Enough so, in fact, that the coach decided to go get “another Amanda Kantzy,” and Mullen went right to the place where she thought she could best find that.
That spring trip to Kantzy’s native Sweden?
It worked out.
Kantzy, a redshirt senior, has one season left at UAlbany, while freshman forward Helene Haegerstrand projects to keep a Swedish player in the Great Danes’ mix for the next several. The 6-foot-2 Kantzy is a likely starter when UAlbany opens its 2019-20 season Tuesday at SEFCU Arena against Columbia, while the 6-foot-1 Haegerstrand is expected to contribute in the Great Danes’ frontcourt.
“She’s definitely going to be able to fill a nice void there for us with the loss of Chyanna [Canada] and Heather [Forster],” said Mullen, whose program lost two of last season’s top forwards to graduation.
Haegerstrand visited UAlbany’s campus after Mullen’s recruiting trip to Sweden.
“I really loved it, both the coaches and the environment,” Haegerstrand said. “It’s all lived up to that so far, so I’m happy about that.”
After her commitment, Haegerstrand played in the 2019 FIBA U20 Women's European Championship in Czech Republic before arriving in mid-August to start getting ready for her first college season.
“She’s a great player and teammate,” Kantzy said. “She’s a little similar to me in that she can play on the perimeter and inside. She has a great shot. She’s a smart player, and I think we really need her passing.”
The 20-year-old Haegerstrand credited the 23-year-old Kantzy for helping her acclimate to life as a member of the UAlbany program, and the two had been in touch before Haegerstrand had committed. Despite their age difference, and Kantzy being from Spanga and Haegerstrand from Stockholm, the two knew of each other from their home country’s basketball circle.
It helps, too, for Haegerstrand to have another Swedish player on the team so there’s someone capable of saying “Helene” with perfect pronunciation.
“Amanda’s the only one that can really say it,” Mullen said.
Kantzy averaged 6.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last season, and started every game for the Great Danes in a 13-18 season. The Great Danes likely need more from her this season, especially in terms of rebounding.
Haegerstrand, too, should help on the glass, but Mullen is excited about the way Haegerstrand’s skill set could enhance the Great Danes’ offense with her versatility.
“She makes our offense a little bit different,” Mullen said.
A 2018 high school graduate who had only been to the United States a few times prior to enrolling at UAlbany, Haegerstrand worked at a law firm in her year before heading to college. She wasn’t sure if her path would include playing college basketball, but said she’s excited to get her first season started.
“We’ve practiced lots of hours in the gym,” Haegerstrand said. “We’re at a good point, and it’s exciting to play our first game.”