By Jake Thompson
— Selection Sunday is something basketball fans anticipate all year long, going so far as to make their own brackets before the teams are announced to measure their college hoops knowledge. For basketball-crazed fans throughout Indiana, the excitement may be even more palpable.
For many aspiring college hoopsters and youngsters, the thought of sitting there with the cameras on as your team gets called is the stuff of dreams.
For two former Plainfield Quakers, that dream became a reality as the University at Albany was selected after the Great Danes captured the America East Conference for the first time since 2007.
The moment was everything senior Blake Metcalf hoped it would be.
“It was a dream come true,” Metcalf said. “When I committed to Albany, the one thing that has always been on my mind was making it to the tournament. Finally accomplishing that goal of winning our conference and doing it with the guys that I came here with really meant a lot to me in my senior year.”
The accomplishment came earlier in the career of redshirt freshman Chris Page, but was not lost on him.
“It was great and a big deal getting the 15th seed and we were all excited about it and to have an opportunity to play such a big team like Duke,” Page said. “You grow up watching the Sunday selection show and always just want to be there and it was a great experience to be able to do that.”
Metcalf, a 6-foot-9 center, spent his career trying to get Albany back to the postseason.
The Great Danes went to back-to-back NCAA tournaments in 2006 and ‘07. As a two-time captain, Metcalf helped Albany from a 7-25 season his first year to a 24-11 record this season.
“It’s been an awesome four years,” he said. “To go and get this program back up to where it should be and where it has been in the past is an unbelievable feeling and accomplishment for all of us.
“To know that’s how I left my mark on the school, it really makes me feel good that I made the right choice.”
While the Albany coaches were scouting Metcalf as a high school senior, Page, a sophomore at the time, caught their eyes too. After several years of recruitment, Page decided to join Metcalf in Albany.
The 6-foot-5 guard said he feels fortunate to have accomplished so much as a team in his first couple of years and looks to build on the legacy left by the outgoing seniors.
“I was happy to get the first championship this season and it was good to send those guys out with a championship,” Page said. “Being able to get it my first year was just great and it gives me more motivation. I know what it takes to get there and now, since I have that knowledge, it makes things better and I look to continue on getting more championships as I progress.”
Although the Great Danes could not pull off the victory against college basketball blue blood Duke, the experience was everything Metcalf had always imagined it would be.
“It was a crazy experience,” Metcalf said. “The Philadelphia regional was so packed and once we started making our run, all of the Creighton and Cincinnati fans jumped on our side and wanted to see that upset. We went into the game thinking we didn’t want to end our careers or our season and we wanted to win.”
Albany kept it close, within eight points, but a loose ball turned into an easy Duke layup with close to four minutes remaining and the Blue Devils made a run to end the game and Albany’s season.
The loss has done nothing to dissuade Page from looking for a repeat performance next season as he picks up the legacy left by his former Quakers and now Great Danes teammate.
“I’m ready for the offseason to come and for workouts to start already even though the season just ended,” Page said. “We lose some key players but have a strong group coming back and should be able to handle business next year and be a strong contender next year as well.”