Double Dane determination
Both the UAlbany men's and women's basketball teams are coming off America East Conference championships and NCAA tournament berths. And each lost major players to graduation.
But don't be surprised if both the UAlbany men and women have at least a shot of winning another title this year.
The men lost the services of point guard Mike Black and shooting guard Jacob Iati, who combined for 27 points a game -- and tons of leadership -- as the Danes finished 24-11 overall and surprised the America East tournament field by leaping from fourth in the conference standings to No. 1 when the dust cleared.
Three Australians will be the key for this year's group. Senior Luke Devlin is once again a captain and will be expected to provide leadership. The 6-foot-8 forward is also healthy for the first time in several seasons and could return to the form that made him an extremely valuable scorer and rebounder as a freshman. Peter Hooley, who scored better than nine points a game, will see some time at point guard and is a versatile scorer. Sam Rowley, a former rugby player, is an excellent scorer and rebounder at 6-5. He should be one of the conference's top all-around players.
The Danes also have 6-10 center John Puk back for his senior campaign, and plenty of newcomers in the mix, including Anders Haas, an excellent shooter from Copenhagen, Denmark.
Meanwhile, the women blitzed the America East Conference with a 16-0 regular-season record a year ago. It was no wonder, because UAlbany field an all-star lineup that included four seniors. Ebone Henry was the Player of the Year after scoring 14 points a game. She was also a three-time Defensive Player of the Year during her career.
Julie Forster became the team's all-time rebounder and was a solid scorer, while Lindsay Lawrie was the team's top three-point shooter and averaged 10 points a game.
All are gone, but the Danes have plenty of firepower back in their attempt to three-peat. Megan Craig, the league's tallest player at 6-foot-8, came off the bench to average 10.6 points and grab 4.8 rebounds a game. She also blocked 29 shots in just 19 minutes per game. Head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson expects Craig to start this year and stay on the court as long as possible.
Another player with an increased role will be Shereesha Richards, who was last year's Rookie of the Year after averaging 10.2 points and 5.9 rebounds while coming off the bench along with Craig. She will start this season. Both Craig and Richards were named to the league's preseason all-star team.
Junior point guard Sarah Royals returns and will be expected to score more, as well as be a key distributor. Tammy Phillip saw limited action a year ago, but she is expected to be an impact player this year.
If the Great Danes can find some outside shooting to replace Lawrie and Henry, they should still be top contenders. They are already an excellent rebounding and defensive team with Richards and Craig.
And remember. UAlbany will once again host the conference tournament at SEFCU Arena, just as it did a year ago. This is the last season of the current format, as the league voted to play their tournament games on campus in the future.