ALBANY — Will Brown has coached long enough to know there is only so much to learn from summer workouts.
“It’s crazy,” Brown, the University at Albany men’s basketball head coach for nearly two decades, said earlier this week. “When you do individual workouts or small-group workouts, some guys are really good and other guys are not so good. Some guys are good in pickup, and some are not so good. Some thrive in structure, some can’t.”
And, what’s all that really matters?
“When the lights come on,” Brown said, “who can play?”
With a series of upcoming exhibition contests split between Montreal and Ottawa, Brown and his coaching staff will get a chance this summer to see which Great Danes perform well in a game setting. Starting Aug. 17, UAlbany will play five exhibition games in five days in Canada as part of an international tour the NCAA allows programs to take once every four years.
In order, UAlbany will play the University of Ottawa, Carleton College, McGill University, University of Quebec at Montreal and Concordia University.
Carleton, which regularly competes against NCAA programs, won its 14th national championship last season. On Wednesday, Carleton beat South Florida 78-69 in an exhibition game.
“They’re the Kentucky of Canada,” Brown said. “If you’re going to go to Canada, you have to play Carleton. . . . To me, they potentially could be as good of a team as we play all season.”
Before making its trip to Canada, UAlbany gets 10 full practices to get ready outside of the workouts every NCAA program is allowed each summer. While those practices have been used to get the Great Danes ready for game action — and the 24-second shot clock they’ll use in Canada — Brown said he hasn’t wanted the practices to have an in-season feel for the players. In Canada, too, Brown said the Great Danes won’t go through full shootarounds or scouting reports before games to try to keep the atmosphere light on the trip, which will include plenty of sightseeing opportunities.
“But we will talk personnel and tendencies,” Brown said of the Great Danes’ planned game preparation.
Brown said he will use each of his available players relatively equally, but likely will only use 10 players each game. He has a number of combinations he wants to see on the court, and wants to give a significant look to a three-guard lineup that features senior Ahmad Clark, redshirt sophomore Cameron Healy and sophomore Antonio Rizzuto playing alongside sophomore wing Malachi de Sousa and a big man.
“This,” Brown said, “is the time that if you have thoughts that you’re unsure of, it’s the perfect situation to try them out.”
Brown said that redshirt sophomore Adam Lulka won’t play during UAlbany’s Canada trip, as the 6-foot-8 forward is dealing with “shin stress reactions.”
Lulka, Brown said, has missed recent on-court activities for UAlbany, and his injury won’t be reevaluated until Aug. 28.
Lulka started all 32 games last season for UAlbany. He averaged 8.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
Brown confirmed this week that redshirt freshman Sam Shafer received an NCAA waiver to play during the 2019-20 season for the Great Danes.
Shafer, a 6-foot-6 wing, transferred to UAlbany earlier this year after spending his freshman year at Southern Illinois without playing in a game.