Former rugby player Rowley finding niche in Great Danes' offense
ALBANY A couple of Australians are two of the best passers for the University at Albany basketball team, and they are earning more and more playing time as their careers unfold.
Don’t be surprised to see both sophomore forward Sam Rowley and redshirt freshman guard Peter Hooley logging plenty of minutes tonight when the Great Danes host Wagner in a non-conference game at SEFCU Arena. Game time is 7 p.m.
Probably the biggest surprise is Rowley, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound former rugby player who is more known for his strength and muscle than for his finesse.
“Believe it or not, I was a point guard in school when I was younger. I wasn’t that big,” said Rowley with a smile. “We Australians are not generally as athletic as a lot of the American basketball players, so we work on things like passing. We are very aware of the flow of the game. The good thing about this team is that we have a lot of good passers on it, plus we have some excellent shooters, like Mike Black and Jacob Iati. The key is to set them up for good shots.”
Despite coming off the bench as either a small forward or power forward, Rowley is third on the team in scoring (7.5 points per game) and tied for first in rebounding (5.0 rpg). He came on strong last year, and although he averaged just 1.2 points and 1.5 rebounds a game, he became a valuable bench performer down the stretch.
“I can play the 3 or the 4, and I bring decent energy,” said Rowley. “Defensively, playing the 3 is a little tougher, but I’m a little undersized to be playing the 4.”
UAlbany head coach Will Brown is a big fan of Rowley’s complete game.
“He’s sort of a position-less player,” said Brown. “He’s definitely one of the strongest players we have, but when he first came over here, everything was finesse. He’s beginning to figure out what he can do. He’s a lot like Tommy Brenton [of Stony Brook] or Brian Voelkel [of Vermont] in the kind of player he is, because he has great court vision. He can really make a lot of plays out there.”
Hooley is another Australian who is beginning to feel comfortable for the Great Danes. He missed virtually all of last season with a knee injury, but the 6-foot-4, 195-pounder is now averaging 5.3 points and 2.0 assists in 20 minutes per game.
“When I was injured last year, I couldn’t do much shooting, so I worked on my passing quite a bit,” said Hooley. “I think a lot of us work on that part of the game. It doesn’t necessarily come naturally.”
Hooley has always been a shooter, and he’s not afraid to launch the ball from almost anywhere on the court.
“I’ve always been the primary shooter until I was about 17 years old,” he said. “I was on some teams where I was expected to shoot 30 or 40 times a game. You need to have a more complete game to play over here.”
The 4-2 Great Danes are coming off an 83-65 victory at South Carolina State. They have played their last five games on the road.
Senior point guard Mike Black tops UAlbany in scoring at 17.2 ppg, while fifth-year senior Jacob Iati is next at 15.2 ppg. Small forward Jayson Guerrier (6.0 ppg), 6-10
junior center John Puk (5.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and 6-9 senior forward/center Blake Metcalf (4.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg) round out the probable starting lineup.
Wagner (1-2) is coming off a 38-36 victory at North Carolina Central Saturday night.
Jonathan Williams, a 6-6 senior guard from the City College of San Francisco, paces Wagner in scoring at 14.7 ppg, while Southern Mississippi transfer Kenneth Ortiz, a 6-0 junior guard, is next at 10.3 ppg. Junior guard Latif Rivers averages 7.5 ppg.
Michigan State transfer Dwaun Anderson, a 6-4 junior guard, produces 3.0 ppg, and 3.7 rpg. for Wagner, is led by first-year head coach Bashir Mason.