ALBANY — At a minimum, UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown’s club needs at least a couple new starters from a season ago.
And, at a minimum, the Great Danes are at least a couple weeks away from really starting to figure out how their remodeled starting five will look.
“We’re not going to know any of that until we start going live,” Brown said Wednesday.
What “live” equals is 5-on-5 action at practice, and that won’t start for the Great Danes until Nov. 2 — and that’s assuming UAlbany continues to progress through its school’s multiple-phase resocialization plan without needing to “pause,” as the school’s athletic department previously needed to do. Until Nov. 2, which marks the first day of Phase III of the Great Danes’ plan, UAlbany’s practices don’t involve players directly competing against each other. Instead, UAlbany’s practices generally consist of skill work, 5-on-0 sessions and conditioning.
All college basketball teams are dealing with changes to their preseasons as they get ready for a season to be played amid the coronavirus pandemic. For UAlbany, though, the inability to participate in 5-on-5 work is particularly troublesome given the program has eight new players, a variety of athletes working back from injuries and only returns 49.2% of its scoring from a 14-18 season.
In all likelihood, redshirt junior Cameron Healy and sophomore Trey Hutcheson will make up 40% of the Great Danes’ starting lineup. The rest of the team’s starting spots, though, appear to be there for the taking — but players have little ability at this point to do much of that.
“We need to evaluate these guys in a competitive environment,” said Brown, whose six scholarship newcomers include three graduate transfers, two transfers from the junior-college ranks and one true freshman.
Until the UAlbany coaching staff can do that?
“Right now,” Brown said, “the way I’m evaluating them is, are you doing everything asked of you in the classroom? Are you doing everything that’s asked of you socially? And, then, what we’re doing basketball-wise, are you doing it at a high-intensity level with consistency?”
A non-conference schedule for the Great Danes is still taking shape, but Brown previously described UAlbany as having “no shot” to play on the sport’s Nov. 25 opening night. America East Conference play is slated to start on Dec. 19, and the league’s plan calls for all games to be played on Saturdays and Sundays, with two teams playing each other on back-to-back days at one site.
Prior to UAlbany’s first conference game, the Great Danes will have played a handful or so of games — approximately 10 fewer than in a normal season. It’s likely that UAlbany — and many other teams — won’t have a settled rotation until well into conference play.
“We’re going to be learning through games,” Brown said.