A year ago, University at Albany ended one of its worst seasons in the Division I era by employing a youth movement.
Head coach Will Brown, coming off a frustrating 7-25 campaign, plans on using a similar plan this season, with a few of the same characters and some newcomers playing key roles.
“We will have nine guys in our rotation on Friday, and most of them will be underclassmen,” said Brown, whose Great Danes open the season by hosting Cornell at 7:30 p.m. at SEFCU Arena. That game follows the UAlbany-Brown women’s game, set for 5 p.m.
“We don’t have upperclassmen who can provide leadership or
experience, so we’re going to have to rely on youth,” said Brown. “The tough thing will be to keep their focus and their attention on the little things. The good news is that they’ve been working very hard, and they are very unselfish. They are easy to coach, so far. It’s almost night and day, compared to last year. This team has a sense of team and a sense of urgency, but they are young kids, and they will make mistakes.”
Sophomore point guard Mike Black, who started most of the second half of the season, will run the show. He averaged better than seven points a game overall, but stepped up in America East Conference play with averages of 10.4 points and 3.4 assists. He also shot 43 percent from three-point range.
“He established himself in conference play as one of the top freshmen in our league,” said Brown. “He’s got all-conference potential. It starts with him spearheading our offense and defense.”
Joining Black in the backcourt will be sophomore captain Logan Aronholt. He averaged 6.7 ppg and gave the Danes a three-point shooting threat.
“We need him to be a consistent double-figure scorer,” said Brown. “His ability to shoot the ball and stretch the defense is going to be beneficial to us. He’s finally healthy.”
Russell Moore, a 6-foot-3 transfer from John Logan College in Illinois, is a defensive stopper and averaged 12.8 ppg a year ago. The New Orleans native will play on the wing.
Also slated for starting roles will be 6-10 redshirt freshman center John Puk and 6-8 freshman Luke Devlin, from Newington College in Australia.
Puk, who should give the Danes muscle inside, gained 20 pounds and now weighs in at 240 pounds. Devlin, who may be one of the biggest surprises for the Danes, is a capable scorer both inside and outside.
Senior guard Tim Ambrose, who has been a starter most of his career, will start occasionally, but will likely be the team’s sixth man. He was among the Ameria East Conference leaders in scoring (12.4 ppg), rebounding (5.3 rpg) and assists (2.8) last year, but has defensive liabilities. Capable of highlight-film shots around the rim, Ambrose also has outstanding range offensively, but he had problems staying on the court because of foul trouble.
Redshirt freshman Ralph Watts (6-5), from Peekskill, can play both guard positions and will spell Black at the pont.
Other key reserves include 6-10 sophomore Jake Lindfors; 6-9 sophomore Blake Metcalf, a high-energy captain who averaged 2.0 points and 3.9 rebounds as a part-time starting center last year; and 6-6 swingman Billy Allen (3.3 ppg), who is also a perimeter-shooting threat.
Fran Urli, a 6-8 forward from Croatia, averaged 5.5 points and 3.1 rebounds last year, but he had a preseason hip injury that will keep him out of the lineup for quite some time. Jacob Iati, the younger brother of Jon Iati, one of the program’s all-time best three-point shooters, sat out last season after transferring from High Point University.
Derrek Tartt, a 6-3 sophomore, and 6-7 Central Arizona College transfer Theo Hatcher, are also in the mix.
Brown likes this team’s intensity and focus on defense. “They are already a better defensive team now than last year’s team was in February,” he said.
“You have to understand when you have a young group, you are going to have your ups and downs,” said Brown. “I like this group’s chemistry. They enjoy playing with each other, and they are an unselfish group.”
For tickets, call the UAlbany box office at 442-4683. Individual game tickets are $18 for chairback and $12 for reserved. Season-ticket prices are $300 for courtside, $175 for chairback and $175 for reserved.
FRIDAY — CORNELL, 7:30; 15 — AMERICAN, 7; 17 — at Georgia Tech in Legends Classic, 7:30; 20 —at Fairleigh Dickinson, 7; 23 — IONA, 7:30; 26 — vs. Detroit in Legends Classic Subregional at Detroit, 7:30; 27 — vs. Niagara in Legends Classic subregional at Detroit, 5; 28 — vs. Bowling Green in Legends Classic subregional at Detroit, 3.
4 — at Siena, 7:30; 6 — at Yale, 7:30;
11 — CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE, 7;
18 — MOUNT ST. MARY’S, 7; 22 — at Colgate, 7; 28 — at Xavier, 7; 30 — at Wagner, 7.
2 — NEW HAMPSHIRE, 4; 6 — at Vermont, 7; 9 — at Hartford, 3; 12 — MAINE, 7; 15 — BOSTON UNIVERSITY, 7; 17 — at Stony Brook, 5; 20 — BINGHAMTON, 7; 26 — at
University of Maryland Baltimore County, 7; 29 — VERMONT, 7.
2 — at New Hampshire, 7; 5 — HARTFORD, 7; 10 — Boston University at Madison Square Garden, 9:35; 14 — STONY BROOK, 7; 20 —at Binghamton, 3; 23 — UMBC, 7; 27 — at Maine, 2.
Home games in CAPS.
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Categories: College Sports