Luke Hancock captivated the Final Four with his 3-point shooting and the heartwarming story he carried with him to at Atlanta. But for the first 2o minute of Monday night’s national championship game, it was all about Michael “Spike” Albrecht.
He entered the game after player of the year Trey Burke was hit with his second foul. The 5-foot-11 point guard from Crown Point, Ind. used college basketball’s biggest stage to breakout. In the first half, Albrecht knocked down four 3-pointers en route to 17 points, leading Michigan to a 38-37 halftime lead. Shocking to the majority of the country, as Spike’s shooting sparked more than 46,000 tweets in an hour span, but his clutch play was nothing new to those who know him.
“The thing about Spike is, he is unaffected by the stage,” said John Carroll, who was Albrecht’s coach at Northfield Mount Hermon (Mass.) last season. “Despite the venue, he plays like its his backyard. It’s all the same to him.
“He was raised to be modest and humble. He is as a person and that translates over as an athlete. He operates in a calm and comfortable place.”
Carroll saw this firsthand last season in Albrecht’s post grad year at NMH. Playing in the arguably the best high school basketball league in the country, the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC), Albrecht emerged as a star in the most crucial games.
In the NEPSAC tournament, Albrecht hit several 3-pointers to defeat prep power St. Thomas More (Conn.) in the title game, earning tournament MVP honors for his 23-point, nine-assist (one turnover) performance. In the semifinals he went head-to-head with A10 Rookie of the Year Semaj Christon and Brewster Academy (N.H.) — a school that produced six Division I players that season — Albrecht had 12 points, eight assists and one turnover while closing out the win with free throws in the remaining seconds. He defeated Michigan teammate, Mitch McGary.
“I guess that’s how Michigan got on him in the first place was that Mitch suggested Spike to the Michigan coaching staff,” Anthony Dallier, Albrecht’s NMH teammate said.
Albrecht was down to two schools when it came time to pick a college: Michigan and Appalachian State. Division II teams thought they had a shot at him. Albrecht even sat down with the Williams College coaching staff after NMH played the school’s jayvee team. Williams plays in Division III.
“He explored everything,” Carroll said. “We decided early on there wasn’t one school he wasn’t going to listen to. A lot of teams were calling on him, but they were all gun shy to pull the trigger.”
Northfield Mount Hermon’s two-guard offense helped Michigan pursue Albrecht… that and the fear of losing Burke to the draft.
“It was right place, right time, right moment,” the NMH coach added. “When they saw him it wasn’t difficult to forecast what he would do for them.”
Dallier and others watched the first half of Monday’s game from Albrecht’s old dormitory on campus during the scheduled 8-10 p.m. study hall. As they went nuts when three after three sunk through the net, none were too surprised.
“When we needed something to happen, he was the guy that could do it,” Dallier said. “I wasn’t surprised. His role on the Michigan team was different, but I knew he had stuff like that in him.”
If Burke does bolt for the draft, it might not be all bad. It might be Albrecht.
Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne