Caldwell, Albano Honored as Unsing Heroes

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - page 2

James Albano and Colleen Caldwell have spent the past three-plus seasons contributing to the Muhlenberg basketball teams in a variety of ways, many of which don’t show up in headlines or box scores.

For everything they do for the Mules – both on and off the court – the seniors were named to the “Unsung Hero” team at the first Lehigh Valley Small College Basketball luncheon of the season yesterday.

James Albano “It means a lot,” said Albano, a few hours before making his second career start in a win at Swarthmore. “I have great teammates that get a lot of recognition, so to be recognized for the little things I do behind the scenes is nice.”

Never one to light up the scoreboard, the accolade took Caldwell by surprise.

“I was shocked when I found out,” Caldwell said. “It is definitely a big honor.”

Both team co-captains, Albano and Caldwell have come a long way since arriving at Muhlenberg. Albano saw playing time right away as a freshman, but missed half his sophomore season due to injury and didn’t play as well as he would have liked a year ago. Now, Albano is the Mules’ top reserve, averaging 4.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, and plenty of hustle plays per game. With nine assists to go along with five blocks (second on the team) and three steals, Albano does a bit of everything on the court – not to mention the leadership and other intangibles that have helped the Mules to a 5-1 start.

“I love my role on this team,” Albano said. “In high school I was much more of a scorer; now I do a bit of everything. I do whatever I have to do to help us win. The coolest thing is that every game is different; you don’t know exactly what you’re going to need to do, but you go out and do it.

“When the spotlight is not on you and you score, everyone is like, ‘where did that come from,’” Albano said. “To kind of turn a head here or there, it’s not too bad.”

Though his contributions might not be as noticeable those of his high-scoring counterparts, Albano’s importance certainly isn’t lost on his coaches and teammates.

Colleen Caldwell “While they aren’t always the most lauded player in the headlines, a lot of times the unsung hero controls the fabric and character of the team,” head coach Scott McClary said.

“James has a huge influence on how we’re playing. He played a relevant role for us as a freshman, but as a sophomore and junior was never able to really get free of health to have the years he was expecting. But he stuck with it, and a lot of players at this level don’t do that. I’m very excited that he’s finally getting rewarded for it as a senior.”

Caldwell, meanwhile, has carved out a critical niche within the women’s program, working her way up from little-used freshman to starting point guard for the last two seasons. After waiting in the wings for the beginning of her career, Caldwell has taken center stage among the Centennial Conference’s best.

Caldwell ranks third in the conference with 26 assists after finishing eighth last year. The steady point guard has stuffed the stat sheet, averaging 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds and leading the team with 10 steals to make her presence felt all over the court. Instead of deferring to a go-to player, Caldwell has become more aggressive at both ends of the floor, scoring in double figures for only the second time in her career last week against Haverford.

“In the past I feel like I was overshadowed a bit by star players,” Caldwell said. “Usually my role is to make those players better, but now that we don’t have a go-to player and we’re all able to contribute, I’ve stepped up and become more of a threat, as we all have.”

And as Caldwell goes, so go the Mules. After three years of hard work, the senior has become the pulse of the team.

“Colleen gives our team its character and personality,” coach Ron Rohn said. “They take after her as a point guard. It’s her toughness, her defense, her willingness to do whatever it takes for the team to be successful. I’m as proud of her as any player I’ve ever coached.”