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Kim Albrecht was named to the America East All Conference third team and the America East All Academic Team following her final season for the Bearcats. Albrecht will return to her home state of Wisconsin to pursue a master's degree in architecture and urban planning at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Commencement 2016 profile: Kim Albrecht
May 16, 2016Tweet
Walking across the Events Center floor to thunderous applause during Commencement won’t be foreign to Kim Albrecht.
After all, she spent four years in the building playing with and leading the Binghamton University women’s basketball team.
“I imagine it will be an emotional day,” Albrecht said of her Harpur College Commencement ceremony. “I’m glad that it’s taking place where I played. But it will be tough because I won’t be able to come back and visit easily.”
Following Commencement, Albrecht will take her geography degree and head to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she will pursue a double master’s degree in architecture and urban planning. Albrecht hopes to someday design houses. It’s a fitting goal for someone who has helped lay the foundation for a women’s basketball program on the rise while serving as a role model for other scholar-athletes.
A home (far) away from home
Albrecht was not highly recruited coming out of high school, despite leading small Deerfield, Wis. (graduating class of about 60) to a regional title and averaging nearly 20 points and more than four steals and four assists as a senior. In fact, Binghamton University was the only Division I school to recruit the 5’7 guard.
Albrecht said she considered Binghamton “a long shot” because it was so far away from her Wisconsin home.
“There were (Division II) schools closer to home, but when I came to campus, it just felt like the right fit,” she said. “And basketball wasn’t going to be a career for me, so academics were the most important part. I had a gut feeling that this was a special place.”
Albrecht recalled being “in awe” of the Events Center during her visit to campus.
“It was so big compared to my tiny gym in Deerfield!” she said.
Albrecht arrived at Binghamton in the fall of 2012 and chose geography with a track in urban and regional planning as her major. The track was a good fit for Albrecht, who said she has enjoyed buildings, designs and sketching since she was young.
The college transition, though, was not easy – especially time management.
“It was hard my first semester,” she said. “It was a struggle to find the balance. I was sleepy a lot during the day. … You just have to push through. There are days when you are exhausted, but you still have work to do.”
The women’s basketball team was struggling on the court, as well – going 6-24 in 2012-13 and 5-25 in 2013-14. Albrecht primarily came off the bench her first two years, averaging just under 3 points per game as a freshman and nearly 6 points per game as a sophomore.
“The coaches had faith in me,” she said. “And I think I surprised myself by being able to play at this level.”
Turning the corner
The program’s fortunes changed in April 2014 when Linda Cimino was named head coach. Cimino came to Binghamton from Caldwell College in Division II, but Albrecht said the players could not tell that she did not have a Division I background.
“We wanted someone to come in and push us and challenge us,” Albrecht said. “Practices and workouts became so much harder. The hardest part when a new coach comes in is earning trust. It takes a long time. But Coach Cim has completely changed the program. She is organized, efficient and disciplined.”
Albrecht’s game improved, as well. She became a starter as a junior, averaging 10 points per game and leading the America East in free-throw percentage. Albrecht attributed that success to Cimino’s support.
“She helped me be better and more confident,” Albrecht said. “It was what I needed.”
As the only senior on the 2015-16 team, Albrecht continued to improve. She was 11th in the conference in scoring (averaging 12 points per game) and became Binghamton basketball’s first-ever statistical champion when she led the nation in free-throw percentage (just over 91 percent). Albrecht was also named to the America East All Conference third team and the America East All Academic Team.
The women’s basketball team, meanwhile, won 14 games (including an America East tournament game) and was the eighth-most improved program in Division I. Albrecht got to leave the Events Center court to applause from Bearcats’ fans near the end of the team’s final game.
“I had to shoot a free throw before I came off,” she recalled. “I saw the substitute (waiting) and thought: ‘Oh my gosh, I have to make this!’ By the time I got to Coach Cim, I was sobbing. Still talking about it makes me sad.
“I was grateful that everyone was supportive, but I was devastated that everything I worked for was ending. There was no going back.”
Albrecht said she is appreciative of the Bearcats’ fan base.
“They stuck with us even when we were struggling,” she said. “I remember people coming up to us in the last two seasons saying: ‘It’s so much fun to watch (the team) play.’”
Accolades and reflections
In May 2016, Albrecht received the Jesse A. Godfrey Award from the Athletics Department. The award is presented to a senior for accomplishments in athletics and community work. Last summer, the America East honored Albrecht’s community work with The Helping Hands Award. The women’s basketball team has been active in the community, working with organizations such as The Magic Paintbrush Project, mentoring Johnson City Middle School students and taking part in youth clinics.
Albrecht will also be Binghamton University’s nominee for NCAA Woman of the Year. The award honors the academic achievements, athletics excellence, community service and leadership of graduating female college athletes.
“It’s an amazing honor to be nominated,” said Albrecht, who pointed to working with Special Olympics athletes as memorable moments in the community. “It’s great how many different things you get to do by being a student-athlete.”
Besides Cimino, Albrecht said a great number of Binghamton University faculty and staff has helped her succeed. Geography faculty and staff members such as Mark Reisinger, Jay Newberry, Kevin Heard and Lucius Willis have elevated Albrecht’s interest in the field, while Alicia Goode and Heather Miller in the Student Athlete Success Center have been supportive, as well.
“I can go to (Goode) and talk about anything,” Albrecht said. “She has been my rock.”
Goode praised Albrecht’s dedication to academic pursuits.
“As a serious student, she was able to find the delicate balance between the pursuit of excellence in the classroom and on the basketball court,” said Goode, assistant athletics director of academic support. “She continued to excel in the classroom even as her leadership role grew in the athletics realm. Kim has grown into the leadership roles on her team and on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee executive board. She is now quite comfortable as the experienced senior leader of a diverse cadre of student-athletes.
“Kim has the combination of maturity and intellectual curiosity that will serve her well as she pursues graduate work in both architecture and urban planning.”
Even though Albrecht’s collegiate basketball career is over, she still plans to play for fun. She follows the sport, as well, and admitted that it is infuriating to watch NBA players such as DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers struggle so much with free throws.
“It makes me so mad!” she said. “I think: Can I be DeAndre’s free-throw shooter? I’ll only take 1 percent of his salary! I don’t understand how you can play at that level and not make a free throw. It’s so simple.”
Albrecht also plans to follow her former teammates from afar.
“I’m excited to see what they do next year,” she said. “I could see them winning 20 games if everyone stays healthy.”
Looking back on the past four years, Albrecht said she would not trade her time at Binghamton University for anything.
“This has provided me with life skills I never though I would have,” she said. “I was so shy when I arrived here. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I grew up and interacted with more people.
“It feels like a family here. Everyone is rooting for you and wants you to succeed. I am grateful to be a student-athlete here.”