ALBANY — That he earned a spot in the Great Danes’ rotation was unexpected.
That he’s starting?
Nobody predicted that.
So Trey Hutcheson has surprised many during his freshman year with the UAlbany men’s basketball program — and, as head coach Will Brown sees it, the 6-foot-5 wing player from Marion, Iowa, is only going to get better from here.
“The more aggressive he is, the better he is,” Brown said after Saturday’s win vs. Maine. “He’s going to be special. He really is. I said this earlier, but he reminds me so much of our former Iowa guy, Brian Lillis. He doesn’t handle it as well as Brian did, but he shoots it a lot better than Brian did, and they’re both about the same size, same type of athlete.”
Brown has made the comparison between Hutcheson and Lillis — a three-time captain who played for the Great Danes from 2004-08, and was a member of last year’s UAlbany athletic hall of fame class — often throughout this season, which saw Hutcheson play his first 15 games as a torn tendon in the ring finger on his left hand healed. The latest linking of Hutcheson and Lillis came after the UAlbany freshman scored 15 points in the Great Danes’ 76-70 win against Maine, a game in which Hutcheson also contributed a team-high eight rebounds in 28 minutes.
All of Hutcheson’s points came after halftime. The Great Danes’ fourth-leading, per-game scorer was limited to playing only 12 minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls.
“Just getting over the foul trouble, getting into a flow a little bit more. I was a little more confident, I guess,” Hutcheson said of his second-half production. “Without [worrying about] the fouls, it’s easy to get out there, and just run up and down, and play — and I was able to stay out of my own head a little bit with the fouls, so that made a difference.”
Saturday’s game included plenty of fouls — 55 of them, to be exact. As part of a 29-point day, UAlbany senior Ahmad Clark set single-game program records for made free throws with 19 and attempted free throws with 24, breaking a pair of Lillis records. Meanwhile, UAlbany also set new single-game team records for free throws made and attempted with its 36 of 47 shooting at the line.
While Clark served as Saturday’s top player for the Great Danes, Brown said he could see a future where Hutcheson develops into one of UAlbany’s top stars. Through UAlbany’s 9-8 start, Hutcheson has modest per-game averages of 7.5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 25.1 minutes — but it’s not difficult to envision Hutcheson making a significant leap as he gains more experience. He makes the right plays consistently, doesn’t try to do things he can’t and shoots the ball well. On the season, Hutcheson has made 43% of his field-goal attempts, 37.8% of his attempts from 3-point territory and 77.4% from the foul line.
And, remember — nearly all of Hutcheson’s college career to this point has seen him play without full use of all his fingers because of his preseason injury.
“Trey is going to be an all-conference player. He’s going to be a 1,000-point scorer,” said Brown, whose team next plays Wednesday at New Hampshire. “He’s going to have an unbelievable career here because he’s an awesome kid. He gets it. Once he consistently learns that he doesn’t need to defer to everybody else, he’s even going to take a bigger step forward.”
To some degree, that’s already happened. Hutcheson has taken at least eight shots in four of his last six games after taking that many shots only twice in UAlbany’s first 11 games.
“He’s really just blossomed as a player,” Brown said.