ALBANY — This time last year was when Cameron Healy started to feel some pressure.
Admittedly, the UAlbany men’s basketball redshirt sophomore is a lot like many of his peers in that he can procrastinate a bit when it comes to his schoolwork. After redshirting his true freshman season, last year was the first time Healy had to balance taking final exams in the classroom with competing in college games.
The all-night study sessions he pulled didn’t exactly do wonders for his shooting touch.
“I mean, you can see it in the stats,” Healy, laughing, said earlier this week. “It’s pretty clear.”
To go back, UAlbany played five games last season within, and right around, the period in which the school’s fall semester final exams took place. In that time when his game “tanked” as he made sure he took care of business in the classroom, where he’s a psychology major, Healy made 18 of 58 shots. Outside of those five games in which he shot 31%, Healy made 44.2% of his attempts from the field during a rookie season that saw him earn a third-team selection in the America East Conference.
“We’re student-athletes, so it can be tough,” said Healy, who has four finals this semester, which sees its exams start next week. “You have to balance it. What I learned is that you can’t cram everything.”
(While his shooting suffered, last year’s finals went well for Healy, by the way. “That’s where all my time went,” Healy, again laughing, said.)
With head coach Will Brown seeking his 300th win leading the Great Danes, UAlbany (5-4) plays 7 p.m. Saturday at Bucknell (3-7) after losing on Wednesday to Yale. UAlbany was shorthanded in that loss against Yale because of injuries to several key players, and the Great Danes are likely to be similarly shorthanded against Bucknell.
That makes Healy even more important than usual for UAlbany, which is saying something, since the player from Sydney, Australia, is already the Great Danes' top player. Healy is the team’s leading scorer and has matured into a leadership role, and Brown said Healy’s commitment to developing other aspects of his game is a key reason for his growth from last season to this one.
“He takes great pride in how hard he works on his game,” Brown said after Wednesday’s loss.
That game saw Healy score 17 points. On the season, he is averaging a team-best 17.9 points per game. Besides one loss in which he scored nine points, Healy has scored at least 15 in every game and at least 20 in four.
“He really wants to be good, and he and I have had a lot of sit-downs and talks about what he needs to do to take the next step,” Brown said.
For Healy, that’s about adding strength to his 6-foot-3,190-pound build and improving his ball-handling ability. His rebounding is up slightly this season and his defense is more consistent, while he’s also spent more time this season playing with the basketball in his hands. He’s made himself into a more well-rounded player, but his top skill remains shooting the basketball.
“You want to get paid one day to play this game, don’t forget what you are,” Brown said he’s told Healy. “And he’s an elite shooter.”
This season, Healy has made 46.1% of his shots from the field, including a 40% mark from 3-point territory. At the foul line, Healy has made 93.5% of his attempts. Opposing defenses have paid extra attention to Healy this season, but his overall shooting is up and his 3-point shooting is just a bit off from last season, when he shot 41.4% from 3-point range. Healy has made at least one 3-pointer in every college game he’s played, and his free-throw accuracy ranks No. 15 in the country.
“He’s only going to continue to get better,” Brown said.
That’s on the court — and away from it.
Healy said there won’t be any all-night study sessions coming up in the next week for him.
He learned that lesson last year.
“I started preparing earlier,” Healy said. “That way, I don’t have my back against the ropes when it comes to exams.”