Albany

Brown taking his time with revamped UAlbany men’s basketball roster

Rotation decisions not close to being made
Will Brown is shown at Thursday's practice.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Will Brown is shown at Thursday's practice.

ALBANY — On the court Thursday afternoon at SEFCU Arena, University at Albany men’s basketball players zoomed around with the expected urgency at a preseason-opening practice.

“That energy was there, just like you’d expect,” said Rayshawn Miller, a fifth-year senior who transferred to UAlbany from UMass. “It’s the first day. Everyone’s energy is up.”

That went for Will Brown, too.

“I was probably more excited today than I’ve been in probably a decade to coach a team,” said Brown, UAlbany’s veteran head coach.

But while his roster’s much-changed personnel from a year ago hustled around Thursday trying to impress the Great Danes’ coaches, Brown said he felt no rush or hurry to make any snap decisions about how his players performed.

“The one thing I promised myself was I wouldn’t get too high or too low with any individual players through the summer and the fall,” Brown said. “I wanted to wait because of the new faces.”

UAlbany’s losses from last season are no secret. In all, eight players from last season’s roster are no longer with the Great Danes — and that list of graduates and transfers includes both members of UAlbany’s high-scoring backcourt of Joe Cremo and David Nichols.

That means this season’s roster is heavily remodeled, and Brown needs time to figure out how his new players mesh with his few returning guys. UAlbany’s roster includes six transfers new to the program, plus three redshirt freshmen and three true freshmen.

Brown said he plans to take at least a week of practices before getting serious about putting together an idea for his opening-night rotation when his team plays Nov. 9 at Iona.

“As much as I need to figure that out,” Brown said, “I don’t want to rush into any decisions, either.”

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There have been some clues, though, about the way things may go. Senior Devonte Campbell, UAlbany’s lone returning starter from a season ago, seems safe to pencil into a starting perimeter spot. Miller, a steady contributor last season for UMass, looks likely to play a sizable role. All three redshirt freshmen — guard Cam Healy, plus bigs Adam Lulka and Brent Hank — should find their way into the rotation. Brown also offered praise Thursday for freshmen Malachi De Sousa and Nikola Jerotic, while Philip Flory — a transfer from Seton Hall — seems like a lock for the rotation.

Meanwhile, a player Brown sees as taking a major leap from a season ago is junior Ahmad Clark, a talented guard who struggled to play within Brown’s controlled system last season.

“Ahmad’s been really good this summer and this fall. I’m trying not to put any pressure on him right now because he’s really gotten better,” Brown said of his potential lead guard. “He just needs to understand that he doesn’t need to make a play every possession.”

The players, though, felt that pressure in Thursday’s practice. Newcomers to the programs looked to show they belonged, while returning players tried to demonstrate they are ready for larger roles.

“There’s some nerves because preseason, obviously, determines — solidifies — in the coaches’ minds who they want to play and who they can trust,” Healy said.

During his redshirt year, Healy said his top takeaway was that, in terms of earning game minutes, talent is secondary to being able to listen and adapt as needed.

“He’s going to play who he trusts,” Healy said of his head coach.

And Brown is going to take his time in figuring out who those players are for this year.

“I promised myself that I would take a chill pill and relax more than I probably normally do, and I thought I did today,” Brown said, “and I’ve got to continue to do that as we move forward.”

Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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