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Jamar Wilson Wins Rookie of the Year

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The Future Is Bright at Albany

by Phil Kasiecki

 

Despite losing handily to Vermont in the quarterfinals and losing three senior starters, the future at Albany is bright. They have two solid cornerstones in freshmen Jamar Wilson and Levi Levine, both named to the conference's All-Rookie team and the former winning the conference's Rookie of the Year award.

 

Levine started fast on Sunday, keeping the Great Danes in the game with several early three-pointers. He would finish with 18 points. Wilson didn't fare as well, going 3-12 from the field for 9 points while handing out 6 assists. It marked just the fourth time he did not reach double figures in his excellent freshman season.

 

Head coach Will Brown feels good about this team's future, building around his two solid freshmen.

 

"I think Levi Levine and Jamar Wilson will be the cornerstones," Brown said. "Levi Levine has got great leadership qualities for a young man. He plays with no fear, and he's going to make sure that everybody works as hard as him. I think our future's bright, this league's getting better every day."

 

He also reiterated his words of praise for Wilson.

 

"He's a boy physically, and we joke about that all the time," Brown said. "He's that good right now and he's a boy, and when he becomes a man physically he's going to be a heck of a player."

America East Profile: Albany's Jamar Wilson

 

by Phil Kasiecki

 

Albany's head coach Will Brown can't say enough good things about Jamar Wilson.

 

And if you have seen Wilson, you can't blame his head coach for campaigning on behalf of the young man as the top newcomer in America East this season. New Hampshire head coach Phil Rowe can see exactly why Brown feels that way.

 

"How many did he have, 60?" Rowe asked after Wilson scored 39 points on 14-17 shooting and 11-14 at the line in an 87-79 road win in mid-February.

 

The 6'1", 170-pound Bronx native has wasted little time becoming a star. He broke the school record for points by a freshman en route to finishing second in the conference in scoring at over 19 points per game; he led in scoring in conference games with over 21 per contest. One might look at Albany's record and wonders what his scoring average really says; the first thought is that someone has to score even on a bad team and he's the guy. Still in doubt about how good he is?

 

Try 29 points against Syracuse. Perhaps 30 points against Stony Brook and all-conference guard D.J. Munir doesn't convince you; how about the fact that his 39-point outing against New Hampshire came just two days after that? He's one-dimensional, right? He scores mostly on quick, slashing drives and has a great ability to finish with either hand, but he shoots nearly 37% on three-pointers and hands out over 3 assists per game. He finished second in field goal percentage, making nearly half of his shots, and he's also solid at the foul line, where his 81% clip places him second in the conference.

 

All this, and Wilson just turned 19 in late February. While he looks it physically with his relatively slight frame, his play hides it well

 

"He's a boy right now, physically, and that's scary," Brown says of his young star. "When he becomes a man, forget about it. He's learning to attack angles, he's learning body control, he very rarely gets called for an offensive charge."

 

Asked about the race for Rookie of the Year in America East, Brown thinks the choice is easy between Wilson and Northeastern guard Jose Juan Barea.

 

"As far as the Rookie of the Year goes, it's a no-brainer," Brown said. "I just think he's a better player right now, and Barea's got big bodies with him. He (Wilson) is a marked man every time he steps on the floor."

 

The respect is certainly mutual. Wilson was somewhat unknown among college prospects when he signed with Albany in November 2002, in part because he did not play much AAU. He wanted to sign early, and his visit to the campus sold him on the relative newcomer to Division I largely because of Brown, who was an assistant coach at the time, then became the head coach on an interim basis before being named the permanent head coach after last season.

 

"I just came on my visit and fell in love with Coach Brown, and he treated us like he cared for us like his own sons," Wilson says of why he signed with Albany, indicating that he has not been disappointed. "I love it, I love the program, I love this school."

 

Some wondered why Wilson signed with Albany, especially when high-major programs took note after two years at powerful Our Savior New American in Centereach, New York. Since he did not play much AAU, his time to be noticed was during the season, as Our Savior New American is an independent school that plays a very tough schedule all over the country. Last season, the Pioneers went 25-11 and won two major in-season tournaments, and Wilson did his part by averaging 14.2 points and 5.1 assists per game as a senior captain for coach Rev. Ronald Stelzer. He feels that did a lot to prepare him for the rigors of playing Division I basketball.

 

"My high school coach was the greatest," he said of Stelzer and the schedule they played. "We played against everyone, he scheduled everyone, he didn't fear anyone. The players we played against were very tough."

 

Wilson now goes up against good competition every night, and in a conference with a lot of young talent as one of many freshmen who have entered this season and immediately made an impact. He likes the outlook for the conference in the coming years, even if it might not look good right now to those who only pay attention to the major conferences.

 

"America East is on the rise," he says. "I think we're a low-major right now, but I think a lot of coaches in the conference are doing a good job recruiting. A lot of the rookies are making an impact." He also notes, as observed by some, that many of today's players are more athletic at all levels, and feels that helps the competitiveness as well.

 

Lest one think it has been an easy ride for Wilson, he feels he is now getting comfortable at this level, and his play bears that out.

 

"I think I'm just getting comfortable to the Division I level," Wilson said late in the season when he got hot. "At the beginning of the year it was hard because I wasn't that strong and I got bullied a lot."

 

There have certainly been bumps in the road, but Brown says his star guard has been a quick study. Wilson has also had great help from his teammates, especially the veterans.

 

"I have two senior guards, and what more could you wish for?" he starts. "They taught me a lot of ways to get around things, and they just taught me how to be tough. They bully me at practice, it definitely helps me during the game because it helps me to play tougher."

 

A deeply religious young man who reads the Bible prior to games, Wilson is currently a business administration major. He wants to be involved with kids in sports when his basketball playing days are over.

 

Albany is a small team that goes with what appears to be a four-guard lineup most of the time. Wilson is joined by three seniors on the perimeter in point guard Earv Opong, Antione Johnson and Rhasheed Peterson. Peterson is more of a small forward who has had to play on the post at times due to a lack of size. The middle has been dutifully manned by 6'5" Levi Levine, another freshman who has played well this season.

 

Though they lack size, Brown feels his guards can play with anyone in the conference, and Wilson feels the team is coming together. We will see how that holds up in the America East Tournament as Wilson leads a team trying to win one for the little guys.

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