Albany head coach Will Brown makes it clear to everyone who enters the program: you have to earn his trust.
Brown has won back-to-back America East championships and he makes it clear from the start of the year that whoever wants to play will have to buy in to his style of offense and be willing to defend.
“It’s tough to gain my trust, I mean, I joke around with the guys, I don’t need a high stakes roller in Vegas we need to make simple plays, we need to do what I’m asking you to do, it’s all about the team and it’s all about winning,” Brown said. “Every kid is eager to come in and help play and every kid nowadays wants to have a huge impact, it’s just not that easy, so the new guys what I have told them is learn how to really compete.”
Senior Sam Rowley saw his role from freshman who averaged under 2 ppg to become a key component of two championship runs. Not only did Rowley have to adjust to the college game, but also coming from Australia to the American style of college basketball.
“I think the thing for us here was to gain the trust of coach Brown takes a little while and rightfully so because you need to prove yourself,” Rowley said. “I certainly found out my first year and I think Peter [Hooley] did too and, as an example, I think my brother (Mike) has really benefitted from a year under coach Brown and now he’s in position to really contribute this year. It just takes time, there’s no fast way to do it and that was tough, but a rewarding thing.”
Sam’s younger brother Mike struggled to get in the rotation last season and suffered a late-season concussion that held him out of the team’s late-season run to the NCAA tournament. The older Rowley admitted that one key to gaining Brown’s trust is defense.
“He simply wouldn’t play you if you’re a liability on defense,” Rowley said. “Defense is the first thing, you can’t be a liability. Offense will come, we have plenty of guys who can score, but certainly what we would tell the new guys is that defense first if you want to play.”
Albany has used that formula to produce championship caliber team — last season the Great Danes were second best team in the conference in scoring defense holding teams to 63.9 ppg. However, it is not just defending that Brown would like to see, as junior Peter Hooley said the most important thing he thought was showing maturity.
“I think he likes to see maturity in, not just the way you play, but the way you carry yourself during practice and everything,” Hooley said. “If you start when the freshmen come in, it’s obviously different from high school, but if he sees that maturity grow over time he’ll give you more and more trust. You just have to keep embracing that and keep doing what he wants and then good things happen.”
Hooley proved that good things happen as his career has progressed. He saw his point total almost double from his freshman season to 15 ppg last season. Sam Rowley said he has seen the patience pay off in his younger brother, sophomore Mike who he admitted has given him a tough time to cover defensively in practice.
Albany welcomes in a six player freshman class to a group that includes upperclassmen such as Rowley and Hooley. While they might take their lumps during the non-conference season, Brown is prepared to be patient as he learns which freshmen he can trust as they build towards conference play.
“I think kids need to have patience, just like coaches have to have patience,” Brown said. “I’m not a patient guy, but I’ve learned to be more and more patient because you have to.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the America East conference, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.