Challenge awaits Danes in basketball opener tonight

An eclectic bunch of Great Danes will get their feet wet against one of the top programs in the coun

An eclectic bunch of Great Danes will get their feet wet against one of the top programs in the country tonight.

University at Albany will tip off its season against the Pittsburgh Panthers, ranked 10th in the country by The Associated Press and 11th by ESPN/USA Today in the preseason polls, at the Petersen Events Center at 7 p.m. The game will be televised locally on SNY (Ch. 66)

UAlbany head coach Will Brown will begin the season against a Big East team for the third time in the last four years and will be taking on an AP top-10 team for the fifth time.

“The kids want to play against the best and see how they meas­ure up,” said Brown. “Every kid has the mindset that they’re playing the game on an elite level, and they want to play against the big boys on a consistent level. This is a tremendous challenge, and it’s good for the university to play elite programs. It gives you a feel early on where the kids are and what they’ve got to work on.”

The Panthers, who have advanced to the NCAA tournament 10 consecutive times, were 28-6 last year and captured the Big East Conference regular-season title. Ashton Gibbs, a 6-foot-2 guard who averaged 16.8 points and made 102 three-pointers last year, is a Wooden Award and Naismith Award candidate. Nasir Robinson, a 6-5 guard, averaged 9.4 ppg, and Tray Woodall added 6.4 points and 3.4 assists.

“When we play these games, we get a nice check for the university, but it’s also an opportunity to play the best. When our players are done with their careers, if they don’t win a championship, they will at least remember that they played some of the best teams in some of the best arenas.”

Team unit

A seven-day, five-game trip to Canada last summer not only introduced UAlbany’s six new faces to the college game, but also pulled the team together for what the Great Danes hope will be a banner season.

“Our veteran players have mat­ured, and we have quite a nice bunch of new guys,” said six-foot junior guard Mike Black. “On that trip to Canada, this team showed what we could do. I didn’t play every game because of an injury, but we got to see there are a lot of guys who can put the ball in the hoop.

“With so many more players who can play, I don’t think we will be burned out as much at the end of the season. Our key guys won’t be asked to play as many minutes. I think this year, we will be more up-tempo.”

“The Canada trip showed the new guys the basics,” said Brown, whose Great Danes finished 16-16 overall and tied for third in the America East Conference standings. The win total was nine higher than the prev­ious season.

“We played in that Canada trip without two of our top players in John Puk and Luke Devlin, and the guys did a great job of spreading the floor. I know we will be deeper this year.”

Six of the Danes’ top seven players return, including Black, who runs the point and averaged 12.3 points per game; 6-3 junior co-captain Logan Aronhalt, who produced 14.6 points per game and connected on 73 three-pointers; Devlin, a 6-8 forward from Australia who scored 7.4 ppg and led the Danes in rebounding (6.9); and the 6-10 Puk, an athletic post player. Devlin will be the third co-captain this year.

Joining those four in the likely starting lineup will be the dynamic Gerardo Suero, a 6-5 junior from Santo Domingo, Dominican Rep­ublic.

“Give that kid seven or eight games before you judge him,” said Brown of Suero. “He’s not a pure shooter, but he’s a great scorer who has a tremendous eye for the open man. He’s naturally gifted, and will probably lead our team in scoring. On the Canadian trip, he averaged about 19 points in about 19 minutes per game. He likes the basketball in his hands and works as hard as anyone. The only problem is that he doesn’t speak a word of English.”

Other newcomers include two more Australians, 6-4 guard Peter Hooley and rugged 6-5 forward Sam Rowley, a former rugby player. Hooley won a bronze medal at his country’s under-20 national championship.

Also new on the roster are point guard Tanner Gibson from Zanesville, Ohio; 6-4 junior Jayson Guer­rier from Winter Springs, Fla.; and 6-5 Chris Page from Plainfield, Ind.

For ticket information, call 442-4683 or visit [email protected]­ Season tickets are $300 for courtside, $175 for chairback, $125 for reserved and $35 for reserved child. Individual game tickets are $18 for chairback, $12 for reserved and $3 for reserved child. Individual courtside tickets are sold out.



Tonight — at Pittsburgh, 7; Monday — vs. Brown in Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off at Syracuse, 4; Tuesday — vs. Syracuse of Manhattan in Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off at Syracuse, 4 or 7; 21 — at Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off, TBA; 22 —at Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off, TBA; 25 — NAVY, 4;



5 — at Siena, 7; 7 — COLGATE, 7;

17 —at Cornell, 2; 19 — at St. Francis, N.Y.; 23 — DARTMOUTH, 2; 28 — at Maryland, 8; 31 — at Mount Saint Mary’s, 3:30.


2 — HARTFORD, 7; 5 — at University of Maryland Baltimore County, 7; 8 — at Stony Brook, 2; 11 — NEW HAMPSHIRE, 7; 16 — at Boston University, 7; 19 — at Vermont, 7; 25 — BINGHAMTON, 7; 28 — at Hartford, 4.


1 — UMBC, 7; 4 — STONY BROOK, 7; 6 — BOSTON UNIVERSITY, 7; 9 — at New Hampshire, 7; 11 — at Maine, 2; 15 — VERMONT, 7.

Home games in CAPS.

Categories: College Sports

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