Albany senior Peter Hooley remembers joking with former Great Dane great Brent Wilson on Twitter when he entered school.
Hooley said that he told Wilson, who helped Albany clinch two America East championships in 2006 and 2007, that he would be more accomplished by the time he left the school than he was.
“I made fun of him, he said he had two [rings] and I said well, I’m going to have four by the time I’m done,” Hooley said. “Now, it’s a big possibility. It’s kind of surreal.”
Of course surreal might be the way to describe Hooley’s experience over last season from where it began. The 6’4″ guard had been learning of his mother’s declining condition throughout the start of the season, while logging major minutes and starts for the Great Danes, to which even head coach Will Brown said he noticed a distracted Hooley. The Australia native said beginning around the time of their mid-December meeting with Siena he was using basketball as a distraction.
“I could block everything else off in my life and just go out there and do what I’ve loved for so many years,” Hooley said. “I was trying to do that and then when it got to everything else it was just that, it really struggled to really resonate with me why I wanted to be out there because really, I just wanted to be home and be with my family.”
Just over a month later from that game, Hooley took a leave of absence in the to travel home to see his mother, who weeks later succumbed to colon cancer. Hooley promised his mother that he would return and when he did, he helped guide the Great Danes to their third straight championship, garnering his second straight Most Outstanding Player award in the process.
Everything that Hooley has already accomplished at Albany will put him in a list of the greatest players in America East history. Three conference tournament championships to go with delivering a speech at his school’s commencement ceremonies after graduating in May, it might seem at times that there is very little left for the guard to accomplish.
“It crossed my mind that I could’ve been done after last year, with everything with mum and stuff, I was thinking maybe my time up in Albany was done and I served purpose,” Hooley said. “I always said to dad if I was going to stay for my fifth year I was going to do it here, just personally because of how great this school has been to me.”
“I love it here. It’s become kind of a second home to me and then I realized that the whole college atmosphere, the college life, education as well as playing another year of college basketball is something that I’d probably regret if I didn’t take that chance.”
Hooley promised his mother that he would finish his basketball and time up at Albany and that is exactly what he plans to do this season. Brown said he is thankful that he decided to return, but transferring for his final season never crossed Hooley’s mind. This year he hopes that he will be able to embrace his final year and have fun.
“I want to make sure I enjoy everything about this last year at college,” Hooley said. “If I can finish it off with another title then I would have had the best time of my life, yeah, I mean no matter what happens it’s still going to be the best time of my life, just trying to put the cherry on top really.”
This season they will have to do it without one key cornerstone that Hooley has had since his arrival on campus as they lose Sam Rowley to graduation. The two of them were the only three players to have won three championships.
“Sam and I thought last year if we could get three, we’d have been the most decorated players here, but to have the opportunity to get four is a massive thing,” Hooley said. “When it comes down to it, I just want to try to send out the seniors right as well as myself and give these new guys the experience of going to the tournament.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.