Tim Ambrose pursues.
When he was younger, he was captivated by the sport of basketball and pursued it, peewee style. Each night he practices basketball, pursuing improvement on his game. On every drive to the basket, he probes the defense, attacks the open spots and pursues the most efficient shot. Currently, he is pursuing a successful America East tournament outcome for his team, the University at Albany Great Danes.
A DANE’S GAME
Ambrose possesses one of the most impressive sets of athletic traits the conference has ever seen. Albany head coach Will Brown, who has coached for 10 years in the AE, said Ambrose is unlike any player he has had or game-planned for.
“Tim’s a dynamic offensive player,” Brown said. “He’s got a lot of natural ability. It’s pretty unique because he’s only 5 feet 11 inches. He’ll tell you he’s 6 feet 2 inches; he’s 5 feet 11 inches, 225 pounds. He’s built like a fullback. Hand him the ball and block for him.”
Ambrose’s wide frame allows him to absorb contact when driving into the lane against power forwards and centers. His low center of gravity lends itself to boxing out under the glass and changing direction off the dribble effectively. To make up for his relative lack of height, he takes advantage of his superior balance and body control in order to explode up high on his jump shot or twist in the air on a contested layup.
“He’s got a unique combination of quickness and athleticism and he’s always in attack mode,” Brown said. “It’s pretty impressive some of the shots he can make and some of the plays he can create at his size.”
Ambrose’s knack for physically imposing his will on a game is a constant intangible, revealing itself in his ability to track down rebounds, fight for loose balls and manipulate a defense by drawing extra defenders.
“I’d probably compare myself to [New Orleans Hornets point guard] Chris Paul,” Ambrose said. “Just getting into the lane, using ball screens, creating shots for myself and for my teammates.”
GOING TO ALBANY
Ambrose grew up in Brentwood, N.Y., the son of Ezzard Charles Ambrose Sr. and Shirley Davis. According to Ambrose, his mother played basketball when she was growing up. He credits his older brother, Ezzard Charles Ambrose Jr., with inadvertently getting him into basketball.
“Probably when I was about 3 years old, I had seen my older brother playing,” he said. “I used to always run around the bleachers. I was one of the little kids that never sat down, and I got in trouble one day, and I was forced to watch. I saw it and it looked fun. So I always wanted to play peewee, but I was always too little.”
He said he finally got to play when he turned five and has played ever since. He played high school basketball at Our Savior New American School in Centereach, N.Y., garnering attention from college coaches for his scoring prowess.
“My high school — probably one of the elite high schools — we had a bunch of international students coming from all over the place,” Ambrose said. “It was just a great experience. We played different tournaments all over the country. I feel like I played against some of the best players, like Michael Beasley and Kevin Durant. I’ve played against almost everybody.”
During his senior year, he averaged 29 points, six rebounds and five assists. He ended up as the school’s all-time leading scorer with more than 2,000 points.
“He had a tremendous reputation in high school,” Brown said. “He could really score the basketball. I thought he had a chance to be a very special player in the America East.”
Ambrose said he spoke to Albany’s Jamar Wilson, who also came from Our Savior New American School. He heard positive things about Albany from Wilson.
“I looked into it and I spoke to Coach, came up on a visit and I really enjoyed it,” Ambrose said. “I wouldn’t regret this decision for anything.”
Ambrose is one of the most productive players in the conference. He’s averaging 16.4 points per game this season, good for second in the AE. He’s shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from 3-point range, which is good for fourth in the AE. This season, he has turned himself into one of the best distance shooters in the league. Before this season, the highest he had ever shot from behind the arc was 33.8 percent in his sophomore year. Now he is taking almost double the number of shots and hitting them at a much higher clip.
“It’s just hard work every day, working out, shooting, getting extra shots up,” Ambrose said. “When everybody’s laying down sleeping, I’m in the gym late at night. It’s just hard work and dedication.”
He’s also in the top five in the AE in both assists and steals with 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Ambrose credits Brown with helping him develop into a more skilled player. With his skill set and athletic ability, Ambrose can play point guard as well as shooting guard, making him versatile and even more dangerous.
“When I came in, I was just a regular athlete who’d just run and jump, and [Brown] worked on my ball-handling, got me better at that,” Ambrose said. “Jump shooting, my free-throw percentage — he just helped my game all around.”
Ambrose is an elite rebounder for his position, grabbing 5.2 rebounds per game, which is second for Albany. He almost never has a height advantage against his matchup, but he tracks down rebounds with explosive aggression, getting to balls that otherwise would end up in the hands of the opponent. In a game against Binghamton University earlier this season, one of Ambrose’s teammates launched a jump shot. As soon as the shot went up, Ambrose zeroed in on Binghamton senior power forward Mahamoud Jabbi, one of the better rebounders in the league, who was camped in the paint. Ambrose rushed in from the 3-point line and knocked Jabbi out of position as the ball was about to land in his hands. Neither Ambrose nor Jabbi could grab the ball, but it was tipped out to an Albany player, giving the Great Danes an extra possession. It is no surprise that Albany has a positive rebounding differential of 2.4 rebounds per game this season. Ambrose’s coach sees the value in those little contributions.
“I think the biggest things with him is he had to learn the game a little more and understand the nuances of the game, become more of a student of the game,” Brown said. “I think he’s done that.”
Ambrose is majoring in African Studies and he’s also going for a dual minor in sociology and education. He has plans for after graduation.
“My No. 1 option is to try and play overseas or even go to the NBA and try and get in the training camps in Vegas,” he said. “When it all falls down, I just want to coach; I want to be a Division I coach.”
His current head coach said that over his time at Albany, Ambrose’s practice habits have improved significantly. Brown said Ambrose is a player who self-motivates, which rubs off on other players during practice.
“I feel like I lead,” Ambrose said. “I lead in a different way. I’m a laid-back kind of guy. I lead by my actions. I’m not one to lead by my voice, I just lead by action.”
Ambrose is the veteran on the team. He is one of only two seniors and is usually the most experienced player on the court at a given time, considering sophomores and freshmen get the majority of the minutes. Brown has needed his voice at times this season.
“We’ve had a couple of games this year where I thought we were flat in the first half, and I’ve grabbed him on the way to our locker-room to say, ‘Hey, you know, you need to get into these young kids,'” Brown said. “And I said, ‘You’re playing so hard right now, you deserve more from your teammates. You need to light a fire in them. I’ll give you two or three minutes, I’ll wait outside.’ You’ll hear Timmy yelling and getting after them. He’s really grown up a lot these past five years.”