Endurance and adaptability will be paramount for University at Albany when the Great Danes play three games in three nights as hosts of the 2K Sports Classic, benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer, at SEFCU Arena.
First up for the Danes tonight at 7:30 will be Alcorn State from Claiborne County, Miss., and a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The 0-3 Braves, playing Albany for the first time, are coached by Larry Smith, who spent 13 seasons in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. An Alcorn State alumnus, Smith posted more than 1,800 points and 1,200 rebounds in his college career.
In the tournament opener, Detroit takes on Robert Morris at 5. There will be two games each night in a round-robin format at SEFCU Arena. Albany plays the second game in each double-header.
“This is sort of like what we have to do in our conference tournament, but it’s also different. In the conference tournament, you win two games in a row, and you have a week off to prepare for the championship game. Here, you have three games in a row,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown, whose 1-2 team picked up its first win, 51-50, at American Monday night.
“This is difficult, because you have to be both mentally tough and physically tough. You have to use your bench. If you don’t use your bench, and you play five guys 30-plus minutes Friday night, you don’t know what you will have by Sunday. But we have to worry about winning each game.”
Brown and his staff of assistant coaches Pat Filien, Chad O’Donnell, Jeremy Friel and Brent Wilson pride themselves on preparing for each game, but the Danes won’t be able to prepare as well for Detroit and Robert Morris, respectively.
“It’s draining. After Alcorn State, we’ll have two same-day preps. When the game is over, I’m not going to keep our players around. We won’t watch any film. We plan on giving them scouting reports that they will have to read, and we’ll have to go over them at the shootaround the next day. We have to learn a lot about the other teams very quickly in a short turnaround. That’s always tough, because preparation is important. I like having at least two days before each game. The more prepared you are, the better the quality of play. When you have a short time to prepare, you’ve got to stick to fundamentals.”
After playing a very methodical American team that milked the clock and then sat back in a 3-2 zone, the Danes will have to switch gears against the Braves.
“Alcorn State is completely different than American. Every guy they put on the floor wants to shoot it, and shoot it quickly,” said Brown. “Everything they do is a quick hit. There is no real continuity and no patterns that you have to defend for a long time when you play Alcorn State. They like the quick-hit, one-on-one moves. They’re coached by a former NBA guy who runs a lot of isolation stuff. They push the ball in transition, and have more of an equal opportunity kind of lineup.”
The Braves return only one starer from a year ago in 6-3 senior Jonathan Boyd, who averaged 9.3 points and was the SWAC’s top three-point shooter at 40.3 percent. JaMarkus Holt, a 6-8, 240-pounder, averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds a year ago. He posted 19 points and 12 rebounds in his last start.
The Great Danes, who turned the ball over only 11 times against American after committing more than 50 turnovers in their first two games, are paced by junior guard Tim Ambrose (15.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg.) and 6-5 senior forward Will Harris (137 ppg, 4.3 rpg.). Other expected starters are 6-0 senior point guard Mike Johnson (7.0 ppg), 6-10 freshman forward Jake Lindfors (3.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and 6-11 senior center Brett Gifford (1.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg.).
Detroit, from the Horizon League, is coached by former Ball State mentor Ray McCallum. The Titans are spearheaded by 6-9, 250-pound freshman Eli Homan, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds in their win over Western Michigan, 6-6 Central Michigan transfer Chase Simon, 6-7 Xavier Keeling, guard Woody Payne (8.3 ppg) and 6-7 senior Thomas Kennedy, who topped the team at 11.6 ppg a year ago.
Robert Morris (0-2), the defending Northeast Conference champion coached by Mike Rice, is headed by 6-8 forward Rob Robinson, who produced 11.2 ppg and 5.6 rpg a year ago, 6-8 forward Dallas Green (6.6 ppg) and three-point specialist Jimmy Langhurst (9.9 ppg).
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