Jacob Iati, left, is averaging 15.2 points a game this season for the Albany Great Danes.
Jacob Iati, left, is averaging 15.2 points a game this season for the Albany Great Danes. (File photo)

He shouldn't be averaging 15.2 points a game this season.

He shouldn't have started six games for the NCAA Division I Albany men's basketball team.

As a matter of fact, Jacob Iati shouldn't be playing at all.

That was the original plan for the York Catholic High School graduate, anyway. At this point last year, Iati figured he would forego his final year of eligibility with Albany to pursue a graduate assistant position on the Danes' bench.

"I knew it was gonna be open. It's a two-year position. If I wanted to take it I needed to forego my senior year," Iati said. "A big part that played into it was I wasn't seeing time on the floor. That played into my mind a lot. I thought I'd move on in my life a little bit."

Starting role: Then everything changed in the final month of the 2011-2012 season, when Iati's minutes were upped thanks to injuries to the Danes' roster. The 5-foot, 10-inch guard saw starter minutes in the final eight games and would eventually start in Albany's last four games. He took advantage of the opportunity by showing off the same skills that made him the York-Adams League all-time leading scorer and a District 3-AA champion. Three times in the final eight contents Iati posted 20-plus point performances, including two career-high 23-point games.

Head coach Will Brown wanted Iati to return as a fifth-year senior for the 2012-2013 season.

"After the season, coach pulled me into his office and gave me the opportunity to come back," Iati said. "I decided right then to come back. I knew if I continued to play well I had a chance to see a lot of minutes."

Leading role: One of three team captains this year, Iati has picked up where he left off last season. Starting in all six games thus far, he has helped Albany jump out to a 4-2 record following Tuesday's 83-55 win over South Carolina State. He and guard Mike Black (team-high 17.2 points per game average) have proven to be a pivotal one-two punch in the Danes' backcourt.

The duo has done a good job of replacing talented guards Logan Aronhalt and Gerardo Suero, who both departed the program following last season. Aronhalt transferred to Maryland to pursue a master's degree in physical therapy, while Suero entered his name into the NBA Draft. (He went undrafted).

Playing for his brother: Iati is also back in a familiar setting with his older brother, Jon, who accepted an assistant coaching position with Albany over the offseason after spending the last five years on the Quinnipiac staff.

"He's five years older than me so he basically coached me everyday growing up," Jacob Iati said. "It's just now he's making a living doing it. We're closer than we've ever been."

In his playing days, Jon Iati scored more than 1,000 points for Albany and helped the Danes to two America East Conference championships and their first-ever appearances in the NCAA Tournament in the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons.

Albany hasn't been back to the big dance since then, something Jacob Iati is aiming to accomplish this season.

"Our goals are simple. A conference championship," Iati said. "That's how you get to the NCAA Tournament."

Reaching that goal would be remarkable, considering Iati was exceedingly close to saying goodbye to his playing career a year ago.

-- Reach John Walk at jwalk@yorkdispatch.com.