The puzzle of a three-peat: Same goals, new year

It’s the part of the year that some athlete’s hate and some athlete’s love; everyone just wants it to end as quickly as possible. Preseason. The sooner it is over, the sooner everyone can start what they’ve been waiting since march to do - get back onto the court and start playing again.

For the 'old' guys, the returnees of the group, preseason is a chance to get ready to take your game to the next level. Another year of experience under your belt and an opportunity to start a fresh. You know what to expect, you understand the grind of a college basketball season, and more importantly, you know how to prepare to put yourself in the best position to be successful.

However for the new guys, preseason is not just about getting in shape, it’s about transitioning and understanding the new environment they’re in. It doesn’t matter if they come from High School or a transfer from another school. Each environment is different; both on and off the court, and the sooner you buy into it, the sooner you can thrive in it.

Australia Day - Courtesy University at Albany Media Relations

For us at Albany, we have nine new faces on the team. We lost some important figures from last year, but we gained a lot of talented pieces. Now, it’s all about putting the puzzle together.

For six weeks in the summer, the whole team assembles at school for a session. It involves taking two classes each as well as weights, pickup and individual workouts on a weekly basis. Not only does it help the new guys settle in to the new school, but also gives everyone a chance to bond together before the real stuff starts. There are many events we get to see and do during the summer, whether that is taking team trips to the nearby Lake George for a dip or to the Saratoga race track on a weekend.

Now, we are into the official practice of the season. We are all extremely eager to get into it and get ready to play our first game at Providence. For the last six weeks we have carried over a similar routine from the summer. Pickup, weights and individual workouts, except it’s all a little more magnified and intense. Everyone is getting used to playing with each other and understanding what is required in order to be successful this coming year. We can’t live through last years team’s shadow, we have to create our own identity, and that is what coach is doing a good job at reminding us. It is a completely new team, we have many new challenges, but we have the same goal. For the returnees, who were able to experience the ride of a lifetime at the NCAA tournament, they want that feeling again. As for the new guys, they want in on the action and we want to give it to them. Those little rings on our fingers carry more memories than people could imagine.

University at Albany - a winning tradition: 2006, 2007, 2013, 2014 America East Champions - Courtesy University at Albany via Peter Hooley

Just as important as the on court, it’s the off court ones that are magnified early on. Until games begin and wins and losses start to accumulate, the only markings you earn are in the classroom. After coming off a year where we attained the highest GPA among our conference rivals, there are always high expectations to maintain those rankings. Everyone is required to do study hall hours during the week which gives us a chance to finish off homework, study or have access to tutors if need be. Maybe one of the more difficult transitions for new guys is in the classroom. Being placed in a different situation where there are different expectations all around. Our coaching staff provides great help and guidance when it comes to school as well; so if anyone was ever to have an issue, they didn’t have to face it alone. It’s one big team, from the coaches right down to the student volunteer managers, everyone helps each other, and in the end, that’s where the success is born.

There are a few nerves, a bit of excitement and a whole lot of energy surrounding this group. It’s going to be a great season, and we are all expecting great results. But for now, it is all about putting that puzzle together, one piece at a time. The puzzle of a three-peat!

You can follow Peter Hooley on Twitter at: @PeterHooley12